Sunday, July 25, 2010

Military History & Promoting it in Academia

Posted by Chris at 10/10/2006 12:22 PM...

Will at For the Greater Good has a different point of view about the status of Military History in the academy. From his experiences in Mississippi, "Sounding Taps" may be right on target, complete with instructors refusing to discuss military topics even while teaching a course about a specific war. I'm not sure how you teach about World War I without mentioning some military topics like tactics, strategy, and weapons, but I guess it can be done.

My experience is different from Will's: my M.A. focused on Military history, and my B.A. at USF got a large dose of it thanks to G. Kelly Tipps, who specialized in ancient warfare, particularly Roman military issues. I also enjoyed classes with Col. Cecil B. Curry and J. Belohlavek, who taught U.S. Military History, The Vietnam War, and The Civil War. Even Bill Murray had a significant focus on warfare in his Ancient History survey courses, which were good background for his Age of Alexander, Peloponnesian War, and Persian War courses.

So what's the issue? Different programs recruit different types of Historians, some of whom may have internalized the 1960s era negative attitude against all things military, or simply find it distasteful since it doesn't mesh with their Enlightenment based ideals, which is David Bell's thesis. Regardless of the reason, Military History isn't doing well at some places, while it does at others. The general impression seems to be that Military History is sick as a discipline.

One item that I haven't seen discussed in the current debate is the belief that since almost all Historians deal a=with a war or two in the era they study, they think that it isn't a topic in need of specialization. After all, they teach about war, so what do you need more coverage of war and military topics for? Can't anyone teach it?

Will provides some additional good "guerrilla" tactics for restoring Military History to respectability, but the one that speaks to me is promoting Military History texts that use various methodologies to look at warfare and military topics. This seems particularly important to me, as this is the area that my education currently lacks. Although I got exposure to Marxist theory and Feminist theory in Mass Comm courses, and I know that other historical disciplines use these methodologies, I didn't get that kind of exposure for Military History. I think that expanding the exposure of students to different methodologies may not only help in terms of understanding

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