Service dates tell us a lot.

I’ve been using the Measuring the ANZACs platform in my Sociology of Health and Illness class this semester at the University of Minnesota. Teaching young adults in the Midwest why soldiers’ records from early twentieth century New Zealand are relevant to modern understanding of health and illness has helped me think more deeply about the material we’re working with.

For example, a big research question in the social scientific study of health is how do stress and trauma (different, but related things) affect our lives? How do our social connections help us survive bad things. In the long term as we assemble more and more individual records we’ll also have data on the units men were in, and can investigate the experience of what happened to men who served together.

For now, we can do a lot with simple information. Take service dates which are summarized on the History Sheet (check out the Field Guide if you’re new to the Measuring the ANZACs forces). We can get an amazing amount of useful information about what affected men’s health and life from these four lines.

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The first line is very similar for a lot men, a few weeks or months training in NZ. Later in the war we think we’re starting to see men who waited longer to get to war. They will be an interesting group to compare to men who were unlucky enough to get there earlier.
The second line, “Foreign” is a measure of exposure to war which presumably is worse than kicking around camp in New Zealand where the weather is mild and you’re not in a trench. Although we only get numbers and not details off this sheet, numbers are a great starting point. Was it bad just to step into the war zone, or did time matter? What was the difference between a week, a month, a year, or several years of foreign service? How did time matter?
Finally, the third and fourth lines identify another important health experience — when, if at all, were men exposed to the influenza epidemic. It isn’t listed as such, but we know when the flu was in particular places from other sources and we can map this information into the men’s files.
The key thing here is that service dates tell us a lot about a man’s war story, but they are also the starting point for some research questions that are still important today: how does stress accumulate over time to affect men’s (and women’s) lives? Help us answer these questions by getting the service dates in the correct format: one box for each line.
As always, if you have any questions stop by Talk to meet the researchers and other members of the Measuring the ANZACs forces.

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