Saturday, January 28, 2006, 03:46 PM - History of War in Global PerspectiveMy department regularly compiles a booklet of detailed course descriptions for each upcoming quarter. The descriptions for Spring Quarter recently appeared, and students have begun consulting them.
I'll be teaching two courses.
The first is History 307: World War II. The course was originally slated to be taught by my colleague, Allan Millett, but his decision to retire at the end of 2005 meant that either the course had to be cancelled or someone else would have to offer it. Opting for the latter, the department asked me to take charge of the course in place of my scheduled course offering, History 151: American Civilization, 1607-1877. It found money to hire an instructor to teach my History 151 section. The decision underscores the value of military history courses in a budget environment based on student enrollment. But it also impeaches the stereotype about academic antipathy toward military history, for the department made this decision proactively, without the slightest nudge from faculty within the field.
The second is a readings course I'll be teaching in collaboration with another of my colleagues, Geoffrey Parker. Nominally it's a History 767: Studies in Military History, but each 767 offering focuses on a specific theme, and ours is The Role of Armed Coercion in the Rise of Western Dominance. (You'll find a draft syllabus via the link.) Here's the course description:
This course analyzes a number of key military encounters between "the West and the Rest;" i.e., between Europe with its settler societies and the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It begins with the encounter between Persia and Classical Greece and concludes with Desert Storm and 9/11. We will examine each of these encounters from a counterfactual (as well as from a factual) point of view. We will therefore consider what might have happened, as well as what did happen, at key points on the rise of the West to global dominance.The description reflects our interest in broadening military history to achieve a global perspective and also in counterfactual theory. I've dabbled in counterfactual theory a few times on this blog and am writing a book on 1864 that employs counterfactual analysis; Geoffrey is quite seasoned at it, having done a counterfactual history of the Spanish Armada for Robert Cowley's What If? America's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been and having edited, with Philip Tetlock and Ned Lebow, a fascinating volume entitled Unmaking the West: Counterfactual Narratives and Contingency in World History (forthcoming from University of Michigan Press).
The fun part has been to settle on a set of case studies. We followed two basic rules: each case study had to involve an encounter between a "western" and "non-western" power that had the potential to significantly reshape the course of future events, and each had to have enough English-language source material on the non-western side to afford an adequate window on that perspective. Here's the schedule of sessions we came up with. I've omitted the readings; you can find those in the draft syllabus.
Making and "Unmaking" the West: An Introduction to Counterfactual Historical Analysis
ReOrientation: Is Western Dominance a Temporary Phase?
Smothering the West in its Cradle?: A Counterfactual Salamis
Montezuma’s Revenge: Cortés fails to capture Mexico
April 25 [Holocaust Remembrance Day]
Presentation and discussion of projects to be written by seminar members (about 5 minutes each)
Unmaking the "American Holocaust": North American Indians Achieve Substantial Immunity from European Disease
The Even Longer Peace?: Unmaking and Remaking the First World War
A Nonviolent Revolution Turns Violent: Race War in the American South, 1954-1970
The September 11 Attacks
War and the American Experience, 1607-1914
Friday, January 27, 2006, 04:02 PM - Building the FieldI've updated the Reading List in American Military History, 1607-1914. Like any such list, it's somewhat subjective, but since it runs to 33 pages, I think I may safely say it errs on the side of inclusiveness. The next step is to distill from it about twenty-five titles. They'll go into the comprehensive reading list for the PhD general exam, which my colleagues and I are currently revising.
A Word from the Front
Wednesday, January 25, 2006, 01:21 PM - The Craft of HistoryNo entries for the last eleven days. Having just received the Cliopatria award for Best Individual Blog, and having gotten a big goose in traffic as a result (yielding a promotion from "Crawly Amphibian" to "Slithering Reptile" in the TTLB Ecosystem), I feel somewhat badly about that. But only somewhat. As longtime readers already know, I view this blog as an aid to scholarly productivity, not a distraction from it. Right now I'm so busy with other matters that any time for blogging would have to come at the expense of my already anemic social life or else from my regular labors as an academic historian.
If you feel a need to place blame for this, blame it on Winter Quarter.
Winter Quarter at Ohio State is a hectic time for nearly everyone. In addition to the usual routine of teaching, advising, and committee meetings, there's also the additional challenge of graduate admissions and faculty hiring decisions, plus the business of preparing an annual report wherein each professor compiles a detailed record of every work published, every grant received, every course taught, every student advised, every committee sat upon, and every professional or community service bestowed during the past twelve months. In the nature of the case, few of these endeavors lend themselves to blogging. Admission and hiring decisions are confidential. The annual report is, well, just plain dull.
Still, in preparing my annual faculty report it has been interesting to see how much the blog assisted me in my production last year. There's a place in the report for encyclopedia entries. The Encyclopedia of War and American Society appeared in November and its three volumes contain nine entries by me, seven of which were originally drafted in the form of blog posts. There's a place for book chapters, and I have a forthcoming chapter on the Civil War as a people's war which was also drafted in post form. I received a faculty research grant whose proposal was largely adapted from posts. I used a post to gather my thoughts prior to a senior honors thesis defense (there's a place in the report for that). I borrowed from other posts to write an article and still more posts have helped me draft parts of a book for Oxford University Press.
As for the blog itself, I place it--and WarHistorian.Org--under the category of professional service. I tried to explain briefly why it fell into that category, because with few exceptions most of my colleagues don't really know much about blogging. Many of them are among the sixty-two percent of Americans who use the Internet regularly but have never read a blog and couldn't really define what one is. That's no slam against my colleagues. It's really just an acknowledgement that this is still a very new medium.
I'm proud of having received the Cliopatria Award for Best Individual Blog but I didn't try and place it under the heading of a service award, though I really think that's what it is. True, my chair duly included it in one of the department's periodic congratulatory emails calling attention to faculty accomplishments. Even so, at this point in time I'm afraid that it might still come across a bit like the Old Man's "major award" in A Christmas Story.
But I think that will soon change. The quality of academic blogging is really quite good, the rising generation of graduate students is very savvy about electronic media, and I'm confident that within a few years this will become a routine means by which academics network with each other, engage with the public, try out new ideas, and generally share the value of their life's work.
Another View of the U.S. Army in Iraq
Saturday, January 14, 2006, 01:19 PM - The World After September 11"Over the next few days here, as time permits, I plan to lay out my view of the war in Iraq. I have come to view the war as probably unwinnable, and the situation of American soldiers on the ground as painfully untenable."
That's the opening from "Shadows and Fog," a series of posts recently begun at Cliopatria by Chris Bray, a PhD candidate in history at UCLA and a US Army sergeant currently stationed in Kuwait. (I understand that he was within three months of defending his dissertation when he was called to active duty from the Individual Ready Reserve.) Bray also has a considerable background in journalism; his publication credits include pieces for Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.
Bray's perspective meshes well with that of British Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster. In a brief weekend post, Bray notes Aylwin-Foster's critique and says that he suspects that Aywin-Foster is "largely correct in most of what he writes about American military operations there."
UK Brigadier Assails US Tactics in Iraq
Friday, January 13, 2006, 12:14 AM - The World After September 11Staff writer Thomas E. Ricks reports in the January 10 Washington Post:
A senior British officer has written a scathing critique of the U.S. Army and its performance in Iraq, accusing it of cultural ignorance, moralistic self-righteousness, unproductive micromanagement and unwarranted optimism there.See also UK officer slams US Iraq tactics in the January 11 BBC News.
His publisher: the U.S. Army.
In an article published this week in the Army magazine Military Review, British Brig. Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was deputy commander of a program to train the Iraqi military, said American officers in Iraq displayed such "cultural insensitivity" that it "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency.
The article in question appears in the current (November/December 2005) issue of Military Review, which is published under the auspices of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
(Hat tip to Dr. William M. Donnelly, US Army Center of Military History)
In the Line of Historical Fire
Wednesday, January 11, 2006, 05:43 PM - Building the FieldA story in yesterday's Inside Higher Education reports on an AHA round table, Military Historians in a Time of War: Reflections on Current Roles, Responsibilities, and Experiences. Carol Reardon, president of the Society for Military History, chaired the session. Panelists included Conrad C. Crane, United States Army Military History Institute; Richard H. Kohn, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Brian Linn, Texas A&M University; Sarandis Papadopoulos, United States Naval Historical Center; and Mark A. Stoler, University of Vermont.
(Hat tip to John Maass)
And Keep Marketing On - Pt 2
Tuesday, January 10, 2006, 01:16 AM - The Craft of HistoryA few days ago I received some contributors' copies of the new issue of North & South magazine. Inside was an article I'd written on "The 'Dump Lincoln' Movements of 1864," which of course I expected; and a review of And Keep Moving On: The Virginia Campaign, May-June 1864, which I emphatically did not, since the book appeared over three years ago.
It was a nice surprise, because the review came from the pen of Gordon C. Rhea, author of a well-regarded quartet of books on the Overland Campaign. There isn't anyone whose good opinion of And Keep Moving On I value more. Rhea begins with two long paragraphs that outline the campaign and its importance, then goes on to a consideration of my book:
Perhaps because of its complexity, the Overland Campaign has received scant attention from Civil War historians. The standard work has been The Virginia Campaign of '64 and '65 (New York, 1883) by Andrew A. Humphreys, the Army of the Potomac's chief of staff. More recently, Noah Andre Trudeau's Bloody Roads South: The Wilderness to Cold Harbor, May-June 1989 (Boston, 1989) did a masterful job of capturing the spirit of the campaign. Other authors, myself included, have spun detailed studies of various of the campaign's battles. Missing, however, has been a grand synthesis of the entire operation, bringing together the disparate military, political, and social strands. Mark Grimsley's And Keep Moving On: The Virginia Campaign, May-June, 1864 fills that gap and has now been issued in a paperback edition.It's the sort of review that draws forth a sigh of contentment. Then I look at Amazon.com and see that, at the moment, a used copy of And Keep Moving On is available for exactly one cent. That just draws forth a sigh.
Grimsley does not purport to conduct fresh research or to uncover new information. His book is a synthesis, and he succeeds admirably in his objective. Often overlooked is the fact that Grant's operation involved the coordination of several armies moving on Lee, with epic fights, not only in central Virginia, but in the Shenandoah Valley and south of Richmond. Grimsley gives due attention to the multiple prongs of Grant's offensive, describing the salient features of the battles with verve while placing them within the campaign's larger framework. Covered also are the various political influences, Union as well as Confederate, and the campaign's profound impact on the home fronts, North and South. In reviewing military considerations, Grimsley keeps his spotlight not only on Grant and Lee, but on their subordinate commanders as well, venturing well-considered reflections about how the generals performed. Especially engaging is the book's final chapter, with its balanced examination of the overall conduct of the campaign and of the operation's broader place in history.
Grimsley has given us a model campaign analysis. As a devotee of the Overland Campaign, I thank him heartily for it.
Part 1 - Part 2
Gender and Military History - Pt 2
Monday, January 9, 2006, 01:02 PM - War and GenderA guest post by Michael Dolski, a graduate student at Temple University.
Ed. note: Michael published this merely as a response to the comment thread of his previous post on this subject, but it is so thoughtful and informative I didn't want it to get buried. I've done a bit of very light editing and have added links where appropriate.
Having just braved the AHA convention held over the past couple days here in Philadelphia, I can provide a couple of examples of gender in military history.
The first is drawn from David Corlett and his paper entitled “Casualties of War: Community, Gender Identity, and Morality in New England’s Early Indian Wars.” Corlett describes how women transcended gender bounds while reacting to periodic incursions by hostile Indians. Such women would take charge of their households in the absence (or even at times in the presence) of the traditional male authorities, which may have been serving militia duty elsewhere. Also, Corlett examines the humiliation or the ‘unmanning’ of the male population that came from ineffectual responses to Indian attacks. Essentially, these men were failing to live up to their expected role as protectors of home, family, and community. These transgressions in gender roles were then used in propaganda and rhetorical outbursts in order to spur men on to actions while shaping the nature of their response. Corlett asserted that men were driven to further savagery in battle as a result of rage built up over their demasculization.
One other example comes from Paul Quigley’s paper, “A Nation Defined by War: Consolidation and Collapse in the Confederacy.” Quigley emphasizes the role that the war played in fostering a separate sense of Southern nationalism. One of the factors that he highlights as formative in this process is the differing conception of gender roles between the North and the South. Quigley asserts that the varied ideals of masculinity and femininity in the two sections served to heighten the divide between them; all of which came to a head due to wartime experiences.
I think these are interesting examples of how gender offers another analytical component for studying military history. Unfortunately, if I remember correctly, neither of these two scholars claims to be military historians. In fact, at an earlier roundtable during the conference, which was labeled “New Approaches to the Study of the Military in the United States,” every single panel participant readily professed the fact that they were not military historians. Maybe I was a little sensitive, but it just seemed as if they relished the fact that they could dip into the realm of military history while asserting (I think rightfully so) that military historians often ignore the issues and discussions that occur in the other areas of history.
Now, all is not lost, as Richard Kohn argued in a different session. Military historians have their various audiences and obviously are meeting the needs of the policy-making community as well as history buffs and those generally interested in military affairs. Brian Linn also pointed out that current trends are poor indicators of future hot topics. He has done rather extensive research on the Philippines, including the excellent book, The Philippine War, 1899-1902. Linn has become a recurrent commentator on current issues surrounding the War on Terror largely because of his work on counterinsurgency warfare. He said that when he began his studies nobody thought this would lead to any wider notoriety or would perforce have relevance beyond the direct issues he considered.
My overall point was to show how I became persuaded over time to agree with what now appears as the rather insightful assertions that Mark posted regarding gender and military history. I do not think that gender is a sine qua non for all military history and that everything to date has to be reformulated in order to directly address this topic. Rather, I feel that gender is one of several analytical concepts that military historians need to begin thinking about if not incorporating into their work if they wish to remain current with the rest of the discipline.
Memory, the area I am more interested in, is another great example of this. Avowed non-military historians have done most of the work on memory and war or battle, a point noted by Michael Allen during the conference (a cultural historian studying a military topic). I think the clear and constant distinctions between historical fields have been morphed into sort of preemptive claims in this regard. Non-military historians research areas related to military topics, but then can fall back on their status as cultural or whatever manner of historians when and if they fail to correctly depict the actual military side of the events. By failing to engage in these discussions military historians invite others to do so in their place.
I am not sure that most military historians have been convinced of the need to address these matters. I certainly offer this as a tentative assertion, but it seems to me that many are willing to acknowledge the potential relevance of concepts such as gender and then completely fail to include them once it comes time to research or publish some material.
Part 1 - Part 2
Good News From Philly
Sunday, January 8, 2006, 09:23 PM - The Craft of History
I was sorry to miss this year's annual meeting of the American Historical Association, particularly Saturday's round table session, Were All the World A Blog: History Bloggers and History Blogging. I look forward to reading reports of it as they appear on the web. I regret missing the session all the more because the winners of the first annual Cliopatria Awards were announced, and it turns out that Blog Them Out of the Stone Age received the award for Best Individual Blog. "Blog Them Out of the Stone Age," explained the jury's rationale, "is the finest example of the application of a historian's passion and tradecraft in the new medium of blogging. It combines research, analysis and pedagogy issues with a keen desire to engage with the broader public."
So many excellent history weblogs have made their appearance that this news came as a very welcome surprise. Although I've been blogging for two years, I still have many moments when I question the value of my work. This kind of validation from my peers is therefore immensely gratifying. I am profoundly appreciative of the readers who nominated the blog and the historians who organized and vetted the competition.
Cliopatria has news of all the awards.
Gender and Military History - Pt 1
Tuesday, January 3, 2006, 07:29 AM - War and GenderA guest post by Michael Dolski, a graduate student at Temple University
Mark invited me to compose a guest entry about a month ago due to several e-mails we had exchanged. The heart of the matter was that I admitted appreciating the significant possibilities that gender offers for the study of military history. My viewpoint on this matter is the issue at hand because I was not always convinced of this.
My first exposure to Mark’s ideas on gender and military history came from an early posting entitled How I Came To Do This; a more detailed examination is in Meet the New Patriarchy, Same as the Old Patriarchy. I was skeptical to say the least. A large part of my skepticism came from ignorance, as is so often the case. This specifically deals with the concept of gender as a tool of analysis. I simply equated gender with women’s studies until I had to consider this further over the past couple of months. For me, this early post by Mark represented a "squishy" attempt (to borrow Allan Millett’s terminology) to revise military history and make it more palatable for the rest of academia. I thought that inserting gender into this was nothing more than the post-modernist/post-structuralist bent of changing "his"-tory to "her"-story.
As indicated, my conversion or enlightenment is a relatively recent affair. This stems from several months of frantic reading and discussion, much of which took place out of my comfort zone in military history. The major turning point for me came from reading Bonnie Smith’s The Gender of History. Smith shows the inherently gendered nature of professional history. This signifies that the issues considered by historians as well as the historical development and organizational culture of the academy reflect gender bias.
The excellent point to draw from this relates to the post-structuralist trend in history, which identifies the influences on and biases of the historian as integral components of the final product--history. She demonstrates that gender biases represent an overwhelming influence on individual historians. This becomes an even larger issue by determining which matters to investigate and by shading the interpretation of the events under consideration.
Upon reading this book it is easier to see that gender influences our beliefs and very ways of approaching the world, including history. Smith also explains that studying gender must go beyond simply inserting women into the traditional narrative of history. Gender includes the very concepts of male/female and masculine/feminine. To look at one in isolation will necessarily produce distortion by excluding the negative basis of comparison. Gender is important because it forms a large part of the way that we view the world. This influences the people and events in the past as well as the subsequent examination of them through the process of history. However, what does this mean for the study of military history?
Reading Smith forced a confrontation with an area of personal ignorance and bias. This significantly challenged my self-assured understanding of history and demanded adaptations to assimilate new information. Yet, initially I did not apply this to my areas of interest in military history. This comes from an unfortunate aspect of graduate education: the immense amount of material students are responsible for and the hectic pace of covering it precludes stepping back and considering the larger ramifications of it all.
Nevertheless, I did come across something that shows the role of gender and even sexuality as they relate to topics of concern for military history. I am referring to Dagmar Herzog’s recent book, Sex after Fascism. Herzog presents a compelling analysis of the way that gender and sexuality influenced Germany under the Nazis and afterwards. She shows that sex roles and rules were an important component of Nazi racial policies. More interesting, perhaps, is the discussion of the postwar attempts to address the crimes of the Nazi regime. Both of the divided German states repressed or avoided the atrocities of their recent past. One way that they did this (more so in West Germany) was to enforce sexual conformity and to reestablish what was believed to be the conservative, patriarchal society that predated the Nazis. The point is that gender and sex roles played a significant part in the manner that these societies tried to come to terms with the horrors committed during World War II. Also, these issues influenced the actual conduct of the war (i.e. the German toleration of rape by their soldiers in the East but not in the West).
So, why should I bring up these two particular works in this forum? The basic premise is to illustrate how I came to accept Mark’s assertion that gender is an interesting and useful analytical tool for military history. Consideration of this will open up a range of possibilities for any aspiring or even established historians working in this field. This goes beyond, for instance, examining why modern Western societies have tended to exclude women as combatants in their militaries (which still remains an interesting question, especially in this time of potential flux in the matter). Including gender roles in studies of military history can take the form of explaining the influence of conceptions of masculinity on the propensity for war or it may assist with explaining homefront-battlefront dichotomies. These are just a few easy examples and I am sure that many of you can provide insightful additions to this.
To wrap this post up I would like to point out just one more thing. Mark has convincingly described how the academic community partially marginalized military history. This is certainly the result of two related trends: academic history has moved away from ‘traditional’ topics such as military history and military historians have failed to engage fully with these changes. This highlights the importance of issues such as gender. I am not advocating a complete restructuring of the historical narrative or rejection of all that fails to take account of gender. However, by overlooking this significant influence on lived reality as well as historical methodology we are only handicapping ourselves. This is evident in two ways. First, historians produce partially distorted or incomplete history when they ignore relevant influences on the people and events, such as gender. Second, military historians will only further exclude themselves and their topics from the rest of the academy by failing to engage with the subjects or themes that many other areas are now looking at. In the end, these matters provide military historians with an excellent opportunity to show how their subject matter is relevant to the rest of academia and necessary for a full understanding of history in general.
Part 1 - Part 2