The State of American History

By Herbert J. Bass | Go to book overview
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American Military History: Over the Top


At least since Charles Francis Adams made his plea for military history to the American Historical Association in 1899, scholars have put a fog as great as "the fog of war" about research in this specialty. It has suffered from the liberal, often pacifistic, narrow-mindedness of historians, the lack of graduate programs, the paucity of research support, and the capture of the field by the armed forces' historical programs, journalists, publicists, and political scientists. Some of these influences still affect research in the specialty, especially the limited number of courses, programs, and teaching positions. I would modestly propose, however, that military history research is now reorganizing and consolidating, not struggling to the line of departure. Scholarly activity since World War II has elevated military history to full intellectual status.1

Part of the difficulty in assessing American military history research rests in definition. Scholars who have examined the specialty have complained that it pandered to the military, either by overemphasizing the study of command and combat or by celebrating military institutions in order to foster their cohesiveness. This is a real concern.2 We have the testimony of Generals Eisenhower, Patton, and "Chesty" Puller (the Marine Corps' Beowul that military history has psychedelic impact. In a recent army novel we find "Sad Sam" Damon reading Clausewitz and Jomini; no doubt it would have been Freeman's Lee if he could have afforded it on lieutenant's pay. There is a persistent military belief that historical study opens the future, as revealed


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