Rethinking Military History

Rethinking Military History

Rethinking Military History

Rethinking Military History


Rethinking Military History is a bold new 'thought book' that reconsiders military history at the beginning of the twenty-first century.The chapters provide a valuable and concise survey of the main themes in the study of military history from 1500 to the present day as Jeremy Black reveals the main trends in the practice and approach to military history and proposes a new manifesto for the subject to move forward.This must-read study demonstrates the limitations of current approaches, including common generalizations, omissions, and over-simplications. Engaging theoretical discussions, with reference to specific conflicts, suggest how these limitations can be remedied and adapted, whilst incorporating contributions from other disciplines. Rethinking Military History is essential reading for all those with an interest in military history, and all who wish to take part in moving the discipline forward.


[N]o field is more attuned to the present than military history, even though many of the people who are interested in it can seem nostalgic and backward-looking. Fear, especially what the current or next war may bring, concentrates the mind.

Michael Sherry, 2000

Military history is arguably the last stronghold of what historiographers call the 'Whig interpretation' … [it] sees the development of warfare as progressive.

Dennis Showalter, 2002


Popular work in military history, discussed in the next chapter, tends to concentrate on an established list of topics, rather than ranging further afield; and, for such an account, it is necessary to turn to a far less extensive literature, much, but by no means all, of which is more academic in its tone and origin. With this literature, however, it is important to be wary about meta-narratives (overarching interpretations), and to be cautious about paradigms, mono-causal explanations and much of the explanatory culture of long-term military history. Instead, it is important to emphasize the diversity of military practice, through both time and space, and to be hesitant in adducing characteristics and explanations for military capability and change.

Linked to this, it is also important to be wary of the concept of a single Western way of war, as suggested, explicitly or implicitly, in much of the literature, unless the thesis is accompanied by due notice of the variety of contexts and 'taskings' (objectives set for the military) involved. Far from there being such a single Western way of war, there

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