The gatekeepers of the profession practically proscribe traditional military history. John A. Lynn recently looked back at the past 30 years of the prestigious academic journal The American Historical Review. He found no articles on the conduct of World War II, the American Revolution or the Napoleonic Wars. There were articles that discussed atrocities in the English Civil War and in the American Civil War and an article on World War I -- on women soldiers in the Russian army.
One frustrated teacher of military history jokes that military historians have become "exactly the types of marginalized people that the social historians are supposed to be championing."
That military history has been chased from the academic field is especially perverse given that, when the classes are offered, they are popular with students. And military history, as a discipline, is as vital as ever. Writing on the American Heritage's Web site, Sarah Lawrence College professor Frederic Smoler argues that "the past 30 years have seen a brilliant expansion in the intellectual and methodological breadth of military history," beginning with the publication of John Keegan's 1976 classic "The Face of Battle."
None of this is enough to overcome the deep intellectual bias against military history. New Republic contributing editor David A. Bell locates that bias deep in the social sciences: "The origin of these sciences lie in liberal, Enlightenment-era thinking that dismissed war as primitive, irrational and alien to modern civilization." This represents a fundamental misapprehension of human nature and thus the nature of history.
Brave men always will be necessary to defend freedom, and what they have done deserves to be remembered, and studied.
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