This chapter explores the army’s physical selection process, the first point in the transformation from civilian to soldier. It describes the various medical grades that men were assigned and discusses the qualities that were considered desirable for recruitment. It then looks at individual instances of examination to suggest that the medical inspection was not an objective assessment of the body but was shaped by wider social and cultural assumptions. The experiences of men who entered into this sorting system also reveal that examination could be a moment of contest and negotiation between the individual and the State. While some men tried to avoid enlistment by feigning illness or disease, others attempted to hide their disabilities in order to be recruited into the ranks. Moreover, these were negotiations in which individual members of the authorities were often complicit, as some examining doctors knowingly let unfit men pass through the selection process.
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