A History of War in Five Bodies

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, I’ll be giving a talk called “A History of War in Five Bodies” at the New York Academy of Medicine.



The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029


$12 General Public | $8 Friends, Fellows, Members, Seniors | Free to Students with ID


At first glance, the history of American warfare can often appear strangely devoid of flesh and blood. Prior to the 1960s, Hollywood shied away from graphic war wounds, and military propaganda continues to downplay war’s relentless consumption of life and limb. According to Professor John M. Kinder, however, injured bodies deserve to be moved from the margins to the center of the American war story. In this talk, Kinder explores the history of American war through the bodies of five disabled veterans. What emerges is a portrait of nation struggling (and often failing) to mitigate the human cost of military conflict.

About the Speaker

John M. Kinder is Associate Professor of History and American Studies at Oklahoma State University. He is the author of Paying with Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran (University of Chicago Press, 2015). He is currently completing a book on the history of zoos during World War II.

Legacies of War: Medical Innovations and Impacts
The profound physical and mental destruction left in the wake of war has by necessity accelerated innovation in medicine that often led to benefits for society as a whole. The conditions of war have brought advances in surgical care, prosthetics, blood banking, antibiotics and trauma care. This series commemorates the American entry into World War I in 1917 by exploring the often-intertwined history of conflict and medical innovation, as well as the devastating and ongoing impact of war on the minds and bodies of soldiers and civilian populations.

Interview on “New Books in Military History” podcast

I was recently interviewed by Professor Bob Wintermute (Queens College – CUNY) for the New Books in Military History podcast. Click the link to access and listen to the interview.

JOHN KINDERPaying with Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran



John Kinder

View on Amazon

John Kinder brings to life the challenges and problems faced by the disabled veteran in American history from the Civil War to the current day in his evocative book, Paying with Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Considered by many reviewers to be one of the most important books in recent years on the human cost of war, Paying with Their Bodies blends lively anecdotal accounts of individual veterans with the complex questions of their imagined and real place in society before, during, and after their time served. Not surprisingly the answers are at times even more disheartening as Kinder uncovers a pattern of promises made and unfulfilled, in which the only consistencies across time are episodes of exploitation for political and personal gain by others and the eventual neglect as the public memory of their sacrifice fades.

Reading at Magers and Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis — November 9, 7:00 pm

Monday, November 9, 7:00pm – Magers And Quinn Booksellers (map)
John M. Kinder reads from Paying With Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran
America has grappled with the questions posed by injured veterans since its founding, and with particular force since the early twentieth century: What are the nation’s obligations to those who fight in its name? And when does war’s legacy of disability outweigh the nation’s interests at home and abroad?

In Paying with Their Bodies, John M. Kinder traces the complicated, intertwined histories of war and disability in modern America. Focusing in particular on the decades surrounding World War I, he argues that disabled veterans have long been at the center of two competing visions of American war: one that highlights the relative safety of US military intervention overseas; the other indelibly associating American war with injury, mutilation, and suffering. Kinder brings disabled veterans to the center of the American war story and shows that when we do so, the history of American war over the last century begins to look very different. War can no longer be seen as a discrete experience, easily left behind; rather, its human legacies are felt for decades.

The first book to examine the history of American warfare through the lens of its troubled legacy of injury and disability, Paying with Their Bodies will force us to think anew about war and its painful costs.

John M. Kinder is assistant professor of American studies and history at Oklahoma State University.

Lecture at the Minnesota History Center

WW1 program Nov10In recognition of Veterans’ Day, I will be delivering a lecture at the Minnesota History Center in Saint Paul, MN. A question-and-answer session — and a book-signing — will follow. All are welcome.
Tues., 11/10/15, 7 p.m., Free
War, Disability, and the American Veteran
The Great War–which ended 97 years ago–was a turning point in the history of the treatment of veterans and of veterans’ policy in the United States. Revisit the aftermath of World War I, the story of its veterans and the origins of Veterans Day, and discover the light their history sheds on the experiences of veterans who have paid with their bodies in the nation’s more recent wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. With presentation by John M. Kinder, Associate Professor of History, Oklahoma State University and author of Paying with Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran, followed by a public dialogue with contemporary veterans moderated by Doug Bekke, director of the Minnesota Military Museum.
Tue., Nov 10, 2015, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102



Community Reads Program — March 2016

The Orange County (North Carolina) Human Relations Commission has chosen to include Paying with Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran as part of its March 2016 “Community Reads” Program.

Reprinted below is the news release from the Orange County website.


ORANGE COUNTY, NC (August 27, 2015)—The Orange County Human Relations Commission (HRC) invites residents and reading clubs  to participate in the Community Read discussion taking place in March, 2016 (date TBD).

In commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the HRC wants to bring awareness of disability rights, accomplishments and continuing barriers.

The following books shed light on the topic, and the discussion in March is designed to be engaging and enriching.  The community is encouraged to read one or all three books– feel free to invite others to participate in the discussion.

The discussion forum will be moderated by Kim Lan Grout of The Redefining Disabled Project.

Click the links below for details and videos about each selection:

  • Beauty is a Verb, a book of poetry by persons with disabilities.  Edited by Sheila Black, Jennifer Bartlett and Michael Northen (Eds., 2011).
  •  Far From the Tree, by Andrew Solomon (2013).  This book covers a broad scope of daily life realities of families dealing with a variety of challenges.