View the h-war Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in h-war's October 2006 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in h-war's October 2006 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the h-war home page.
retired" (Combined Response) Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2006 There are 3 messages in this post. Message 1, Dave Stone In this thread and in the responses to the article around the web, one thing I've noticed is a lack of perspective. These episodes of hand-wringing about the state of the field seem to me cyclical--I remember John Lynn unleashing a very similar one almost ten years ago in the _Journal of Military History_. Here's what I would like to see: objective data on the supposed decline of the field. The _American Historical Review_ doesn't publish operational military history: when did it? How much? Military history lines are disappearing: really? Compared to when? Who's done the counting? Where specifically have they disappeared? Certainly the sources for that research are easily at hand. JSTOR has close to full runs of all the major scholarly journals. The American Historical Association's guides to history departments list faculty by specialization. My guess is that the time spent complaining might easily be spent amassing some objective data and naming names, if there are names to be named. If we're limiting ourselves to anecdotal information, let me offer a positive one. Serving on the board of the University Press of Kansas' Modern War Studies, I am astounded by the quantity and quality of military history being produced. And that leaves aside other presses and the numerous high-quality journals. Judging by that standard, we are in a golden age. The need for perspective goes further. Which field of history manages to find places for all its graduate students and is awash in new lines and money? Reading _Perspectives_, I conclude that the Middle East (only recently) and maybe East Asia are about it. Other than that, the job market is not good and has not been good since perhaps 1970. It's certainly not a problem unique to military history. Is it worse in military history? Until I see some numbers, I'm unconvinced. Dave Stone Kansas State University * * * Message 2, Mark Grimsley At present, a dearth of ideas and strategies exists concerning the advancement of military history as an academic field. As the NRO article underlines, the tone among many senior scholars in the field -- including those who hold, or have held, leadership positions -- is strikingly defeatist. Along with their rank-and-file counterparts, they complain about the marginalization of the field, blaming it on a blind prejudice against miltary history among academics in other fields. That may be true. It is also irrelevant. I happen to think the thesis of an unreasoning hostility toward the field is overblown. But even if it is not, this does not relieve us of the responsibility for developing and executing plans to strengthen academic military history. Since others do not seem to be shouldering the burden, I've decided to embark on the work myself -- to educate myself in the ways that other fields have solidified their position in academe and to learn something of the art of fund-raising. Some measures are easy to implement. We can, for example, create a bigger tent for military history. That is to say, we can make a concerted effort to reach out to historians who do not self-identify as military historians but whose scholarship nevertheless examines the military dimension of human affairs, invite them to our conferences, and make it known that we value their work. We can become ambassadors for academic military history. Instead of ignoring or rejecting the conceptual frameworks of those in other fields, we can take an active interest in exploring those frameworks in a spirit of intellectual curiosity. Other measures are much more challenging. For example, in December 2004 I visited Prof. John A. Lynn , the incoming vice president of the Society for Military History, at his home in Champaign, Illinois, while en route to spend the holidays with friends. This is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote concerning my visit [ http://warhistorian.org/wordpress/?p=11 ] "We talked briefly about what might be done intellectually to advance the field but focused mainly on what the SMH could do to create more academic positions in military history. We knew that few history departments would do this of their own accord. Indeed, the record at Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere is that when existing military historians retire they are not replaced. The programs simply disappear. Nor, in John's experience, did departments seem receptive to the idea of accepting external funding to endow chairs in the field. In effect, departments wouldn't add a military history faculty line even if it cost them nothing. "But this impression turned out to be primarily an extrapolation from John's dealings with his own department, which by any measure is a department unusually taken with the new cultural history and unusually cool to everything else. It also turned out that the external funding was theoretical, not actual. I thought things would turn out differently if a department was confronted with, say, $2 million in cash. "John remained skeptical until I suggested that the SMH should employ a development officer of its own to go forth, locate, and cultivate Dick and Jane Q. Benefactor. You can't swing a cat in a country club without hitting some wealthy businessman with an interest in military history. Moreover, in a country dominated by what Robert Reich calls 'rad conservatives,' where university departmental budgets are increasingly based on student enrollment, and where administrators have adapted themselves to both realities, I figured if you could get the bucks, you could get more than enough leverage to cram a military history position down the throat of the most granola-besotted department in the country. And if you couldn't do it among the top tier of universities, you could assuredly do it in the second-tier. "If nothing else, John agreed, that approach might populate the field with enough military historians for it to reach critical mass: a big problem right now is that there simply aren't enough academic military historians to be in real conversation with one another, to have the debates and steady historiographical growth characteristic of other fields. But on the whole John thought you'd get the most advantage from seeding military history positions in the top departments, and the idea of an SMH development officer captured his imagination. He wants to corral some of the Society's senior leadership at the next annual meeting and explore this idea further. "Will it work? I don't know. I do know that it's high time we began thinking strategically about how to establish the field. That, contrary to a myth much cherished among the white males of my profession, is how fields such as women's history and African American history got established. Political, diplomatic, social, and intellectual historians didn't just welcome them in. They scrambled; they elbowed their way to a place at the table. We must do the same." At the annual meeting of the Society for Military History in February 2005, I again raised the idea of creating our own development operation with John Lynn and SMH trustee Jeffrey Grey [ http://warhistorian.org/wordpress/?p=442 ]. We refined the proposal a bit and took it to SMH president Carol Reardon for consideration. I think it would be fair to characterize Prof. Reardon's response as lukewarm. In any event, nearly two years have elapsed since I first broached the subject. With the exception of one or two recent emails, I know of nothing that has transpired with that initiative, nor to my knowledge has the SMH developed an alternative strategic plan. Instead, the recent _National Review Online_ article entitled "Sounding Taps" -- which argues that "tenured radicals" have all but driven military history from the academy -- includes a number of doleful quotations from military historians, most of them quite distinguished -- that substantially endorse the author's thesis. Put simply, this will not do. It gets us nowhere and indeed, may wind up harming the field by convincing would be benefactors that there is no point in investing in academic military history because, for all practical purposes, it is already dead. I would be very glad to hear, either through H-War or via private email, from people who would like to join in the constructive work of building the field. As for those who would like to continue their complaints about how them tenured radicals done us wrong -- I've heard that tune quite enough, thanks. ---- Mark Grimsley Tel. 614-292-1855 Department of History Fax 614-292-2282 Ohio State University email@example.com 230 West 17th Avenue Columbus, OH 43210 Home Page: http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/grimsley1 Blog: http://warhistorian.org/wordpress/index.php * * * Message 3, Jim Dingeman Boo-whooing and wringing ones hands about this state of affairs reflected to _some extent_ in the articles by Miller and Kagan are not going to cut it; people have to always be bobbing and weaving and taking positive action. In saying this I speak as a board member of the New York Military Affairs Symposium in NYC, http://www.nymas.org and my comments reflect only my own opinions but we have grappled with this state of affairs for over thirty years. First, it is true that there is a in part a gleeful reaction from many currently in power who are politically on the left to what they see as the narrow minded approach of the "DRUMS AND TRUMPETS" schools in what I have observed here in NYC but itís more complicated than that. At CUNY we had support from some of the most politically conservative historians when we began operating there, but these same professors had been involved in supporting those against open admissions into CUNY -- a very bitter fight that left a nasty legacy in everything we did in NYC since 1984. In part, NYMAS had its roots in the anti-war movement, with a healthy strain of support from people active in VVAW throughout our entire existence, as well as people admittedly to the right of Atilla the Hun and proud of it. That is a circumstance perhaps unique in the military history field but I doubt it. When we set it up, we felt that all the silly tribal battles in the history field were to be risen above in the sense that we need to respect and honor each other and adopt an inter-disciplinary approach, with a healthy dose of let one hundred flowers bloom. The only way to deal with the more rigid PC elements is to be inclusive with them while doing one's thing unabashedly, and yes, operational military history has always and will remain a strong component of how military history should be understood and reflected upon, it just is all the other approaches that have broadened our minds like cultural and social history need to be honored and not trivialized by those feeling besieged with it. The issue of allocation of resources in what the battles over money in academic departments mean is immediate and where I have heard people for years complain bitterly about how they cannot get a gig, but then I have also heard that accompanied in some cases by how they cannot stand the race, class and gender bias. That lack of dialog with the evil other is where the military history field literally can often take a double barreled shotgun and shoot ones lower limbs away, it isn't going to work and has not worked. It is true that the public craves for popular military history and having myself participated in the media for 15 years I can also say that some of that is hagiographic and mythic producing in the extreme. I have had several experiences like that. I also find it amusing that thoughtful conservative commentators bring up the question of the problem of not having academia address operational military history and then do not reflect at all on how the equal absence of good operational military history on Third World conflicts may have reinforced the tendency of their ideological allies in the Executive Branch to think we would could draw our presence down to two divisions by the fall of 2003. More and more I feel that we are dealing with calculated racist ignorance and that speaks also to what I have felt for many decades was the Euro-centric bias of how we look at military history in general here in the US. My suggestion is act locally, create your own institutions and include your intellectual "foes" into your process, one would be surprised. Jim Dingeman ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----