Why Don't More Colleges Teach Military History?





Five years into the war in Iraq, military history seems to be experiencing a golden age. Hollywood has been cranking out war movies. Publishers have been lining bookstore shelves with new battle tomes, which consumers are eagerly lapping up. Even the critics have been enjoying themselves. Two of the last five Pulitzer Prizes in history were awarded to books about the American military. Four of the five Oscar nominees for best documentary this year were about warfare. Business, for military historians, is good.

Except, strangely enough, in academia. On college campuses, historians who study military institutions and the practice of war are watching their classrooms overflow and their books climb bestseller lists—but many say they are still struggling, as they have been for years, to win the respect of their fellow scholars. John Lynn, a professor of history at the University of Illinois, first described this paradox in a 1997 essay called "The Embattled Future of Academic Military History." The field, he wrote, with its emphasis on predominantly male co mbatants and its decidedly nontheoretical subject matter, "has always been something of a pariah in U.S. universities." For years, military historians have been accused by their colleagues of being, by turns, right wing, morally suspect, or, as Lynn puts it, "just plain dumb." Scholars who study D-Day or the Battle of Thermopylae may sell books and fill lecture halls, but they don't have much success with hiring committees.



comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:


Jeremy Potratz - 4/6/2008

University hiring committees are usually composed of draft dodgers, those who had something better to do than serve, ie. Cheney, natural born cowards, and those from families that invest heavily in defense industries but disdain from actually pulling a trigger. That is one reason why Virginia Tech banned handguns even for those with concealed weapons permits. Wars change history. Wars make history. All the rest is chump change.
When sixth grade teacher read about Harriet Tubman and call it important it is because they don't realize how little she meant to the times. The Civil War was fought by men, and not won because one black woman sneaked across the Mason Dixon line and freed her family members. Teachers are mostly women, and they don't teach about things that they don't know, haven't experienced or are against their general womanly demeanor. College historians do themselves and their students a disservice if they don't teach their classes about the importance of war in the movement of people throughout time, the economic impact wars have had on societies and the social changes families, communities and nations have experienced because of wars. Learning about warfare is the ONLY way to achieve world peace, not by ignoring the fact that war changes everything, always and in all ways.

Subscribe to our mailing list