Blogs > Cliopatria > Teaching About the Military in American History

Apr 11, 2007 3:54 am

Teaching About the Military in American History

An Institute for Teachers
(March 24-25, 2007)

A couple of weeks ago I was one of several military historians who gave presentations at a weekend symposium intended to help teachers -- mainly high school teachers -- learn how to better integrate military history into their American history curricula. Other presenters included Paul A. Rahe (University of Tulsa); Pete Maslowski (University of Nebraska); Paul Herbert (Executive Director, Cantigny First Division Foundation); Brian M. Linn (Texas A&M University); and Walter A. McDougall (University of Pennsylvania).

Each of these presentations -- and several others by such luminaries and David Eisenhower and Rick Atkinson -- were recorded for webcast. The webcasts and additional information about the symposium are now available online. From what I've seen, the quality of the webcasts is good and well worth a look.

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Nonpartisan - 4/12/2007

That was my point, though. Grimsley is a historian of the first order -- they all are. However, Grimsley's talk is the only one that explicitly takes social history as its genesis -- which is my criticism here. And you're right: I haven't had time to listen to the lectures, so my analysis is perhaps somewhat limited.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2007

Whoah! You may not have actually watched any of the lectures in the symposium. Mark Grimsley's lecture, for instance, focusses on the three pools from which Confederate and Union soldiers were drawn. He gives some attention to women's service as nurses, etc., and a lot of attention to where and how black troops were placed.

Nonpartisan - 4/12/2007

There's an interesting assumption here: the notion that only nonwhite, nonmale academics are interested/qualified to address the social/cultural dimensions of military history. I fully agree that the symposium program (with the notable exception of Mark Grimsley's lecture) is decidedly two-dimensional, but how would that problem be solved simply by the addition of "diversity" among the presenters? I'd rather expand the pool of issues discussed than add women and minorities to the panels just for the sake of tokenism.

Mary Dudziak - 4/11/2007

The symposium looks interesting enough that I linked to it at the Legal History Blog ( -- but with this caveat:

There was a serious flaw in the planning. Much scholarship makes clear that military history is not unidimensional. There has been great work underway on race in the military, issues of gender and sexuality, etc. Yet every single speaker, from the introducers through all lecturers, are white and male.

What century are we in?

So get what you can out of this, and then go buy a good book like Elizabeth Hillman, Defending America: Military Culture and the Cold War Court-Martial (Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), for the parts they leave out.