The Current Status of Military History

The field of military history seems to have fallen on hard times in the last fifty years. Some academic historians have often commented that military history is to history what military music is to music—a discordant collection of works left to an insulated audience and no longer worthy of consideration in the wider discipline of modern historiography. Although military history remains a popular topic with the general public and continues to retain its utility to the military profession as a teaching tool, this rocky relationship appears to remain within the academic community.

However, beneath this surface malaise, military historiography is actually undergoing a renaissance with both the academic and military communities, as well as remaining very popular with the general public. This new appreciation for military history is driven in part by changes in military historiography during the last 50 years, moving beyond the traditional forms of historical narrative to incorporate other fields of study to examine a broader scope of militaries and warfare.

Military history usually brings to mind narratives of battles and campaigns and perhaps the occasional story of famous generals and leaders. Although these are certainly the most obvious aspects of this discipline of history, what really separates military history is the involvement of combat—a life or death struggle either on the individual, unit or national level. Military history grapples with many of the same issues that historians of all fields have grappled with, including how to integrate individual actions and events with an overarching narrative, cause and effect, and a very important questions for military historians- why were some countries and armies successful at war when others were not?

More to follow.......