De grote school van de natie. Legerartsen over drankmisbruik en geslachtsziekten in het Belgisch leger (circa 1850-1950)
Keywords:Army, Health care
The training ground of the nation: Army doctors dealing with alcohol abuse and venereal disease in the Belgian army (circa 1850-1950)
In the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, Belgian army doctors were very concerned about the high incidence of alcoholism and venereal disease in the army. They launched a vigorous campaign to combat these 'diseases'. The underlying motives for this campaign were many and various. In the first place, the army's medical staff wanted to improve the general health and physical fitness of the military. At the same time, they used their campaign to reverse the negative opinion of the army prevalent amongst the general public by trying to reform the moral standards in the barracks. Another important motive for their radical measures against alcoholism and venereal disease was to enhance military and national efficiency. Finally, towards the end of the nineteenth century, more and more army doctors considered alcoholism and venereal disease to be major causes of racial degeneration, and this further legitimised their continued action against these two evils. Ultimately, the army doctors expected the results of their drastic campaign to transcend the confines of the army and have a positive impact on the entire nation as well. In this way, the army would truly become 'la grande école nationale'.
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