The Embattled Past: Reflections on Military History

The Embattled Past: Reflections on Military History

The Embattled Past: Reflections on Military History

The Embattled Past: Reflections on Military History

Excerpt

Military history evolved a great deal in the past century. Traditionally, the “drum and trumpet” genre dealt with heroes and the glory earned in battle. As the field of academic history developed in the early days of the twentieth century, teachers disdained that approach and attempted to bar it from the classroom. At the annual American Historical Association meeting in 1912, a few Regular Army officers and academics, including the famous Harvard professor Albert Bushnell Hart, gathered to discuss the future of military history in academe. The then president of the AHA, Theodore Roosevelt, attended this session and advocated that military history should broaden its approach. Not surprisingly, there was little change in most academics’ bias. Four years later, Captain Arthur Conger, a Harvard graduate, published an article about military history and academe in the Mississippi Valley Review which acknowledged the flaws of “drum and trumpet” history and recognized that the government did not want to release facts that discredited the military or itself. He argued that “the exact truth” should be told. Then he deplored those who argued that military history should be suppressed.

While many academics strongly supported the American effort in World War I, their interest quickly vanished after the war. A poll taken in 1937 showed that 95 percent of Americans were against fighting in a war. Pearl Harbor radically changed the situation. In World War II, the military services covered the war with historians. The result was the postwar history programs that continued to study the war and publish many volumes about the conduct of the conflict. The army program included logistics as well as combat operations. However, academe still had little interest in military history. In 1954, Richard Brown published the results of a survey of 493 colleges and universities, but, aside from courses taught in the ROTC programs, only thirty-seven schools offered or planned to offer military history courses. He also . . .

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