Thought for the Day

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Role of Military History in the Contemporary Academy

Probably one of the most succinct and best essays that provides the rationale for why we should study military history.

The entire essay can be accessed at the link below or downloaded in PDF at this link: http://www.fpri.org/docs/society_for_mil_hist_whit_paper.pdf

Excerpt:

Though the study of war is demanding, both intellectually and emotionally, we cannot afford to eschew or ignore it. Examining the origins of wars informs us about human behavior: the way that we create notions of identity, nationality, and territoriality; the way that we process and filter information; and the way that we elevate fear and aggression over reason. Analyzing the nature of war informs us about the psychology of humans under stress: the patterns of communication and miscommunication within and across groups; the causes of escalation; and the dynamics of political and social behavior within nations and across populations. And studying the consequences of wars helps us to understand human resilience, resignation, and resentment; we learn to identify unresolved issues that may lead to further strife, and we develop a heightened ability for comprehending the elements of political behavior that can lead to sustainable resolution and the re-building of broken—indeed sometimes shattered—social, political, and economic structures and relationships.
Vol.
20
No.
4

The Role of Military History in the Contemporary Academy

Tami Davis Biddle is the Hoyt S. Vandenberg Chair of Aerospace Studies at the US Army War College, and Robert M. Citino is Professor of History, University of North Texas. Biddle’s views are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army, Department of Defense, or US Government.
This essay was originally published as a Society of Military History White Paper and is reprinted with permission. FPRI has long worked on teaching military history through its Butcher History Institute, in cooperation with the First Division Museum at Cantigny and with Carthage College.  A collection of essays drawn from seven history weekends for high school teachers – American Military History: A Resource for Teachers and Students, edited by Paul H. Herbert and Michael P. Noonan – is available on our website. The next history institute in this series will be held April 18-19, 2015 on Ethical Dilemmas in American Warfare.

The resort to war signals the failure of far more satisfactory means of settling human conflicts. It forces us to face and wrestle with the darkest corners of the human psyche.  It signals the coming of trauma and suffering—often intense and prolonged—for individuals, families and societies. War-fighting concentrates power in non-democratic ways, infringes upon civil liberties, and convulses political, economic, and social systems. From the wreckage—the broken bodies, the re-drawn boundaries, the imperfect treaties, the fresh resentments and the intensified old ones—altered political and social patterns and institutions emerge that may help to prevent future conflicts, or sow the seeds of new ones. All of this creates a difficult, complicated, and fraught historical landscape to traverse.
Though the study of war is demanding, both intellectually and emotionally, we cannot afford to eschew or ignore it. Examining the origins of wars informs us about human behavior: the way that we create notions of identity, nationality, and territoriality; the way that we process and filter information; and the way that we elevate fear and aggression over reason. Analyzing the nature of war informs us about the psychology of humans under stress: the patterns of communication and miscommunication within and across groups; the causes of escalation; and the dynamics of political and social behavior within nations and across populations. And studying the consequences of wars helps us to understand human resilience, resignation, and resentment; we learn to identify unresolved issues that may lead to further strife, and we develop a heightened ability for comprehending the elements of political behavior that can lead to sustainable resolution and the re-building of broken—indeed sometimes shattered—social, political, and economic structures and relationships.
Research in military history not only informs and enriches the discipline of history, but also informs work in a host of other fields including political science, sociology, and public policy. Students need this knowledge in order to become informed, thoughtful citizens. If the role of a liberal education is to hone analytical thinking skills and prepare young people to accept their full responsibilities in a democratic society, then it is more than ever imperative that we prepare our students to think critically and wisely about issues of war and peace. Among its many roles, scholarship has a civic function: it facilitates our understanding of the institutions we have created, and opens a debate on their purpose and function.[1]
The members of the Society for Military History have a broad and inclusive sense of our work and our educational mission. We see our realm as encompassing not only the study of military institutions in wartime, but also the study of the relationships between military institutions and the societies that create them; the origins of wars, societies at war; and the myriad impacts of war on individuals, groups, states, and regions. Our mission encompasses not only traditional studies of battles, but also of war and public memory. The cross fertilization in these realms has been extensive in recent years, and each one has influenced the others in salutary ways.
Several decades ago the phrase “new military history” arose to highlight a shift away from traditional narratives that focused on generalship and troop movements on the battlefield. But events have clearly overtaken the phrase. The “new military history” is simply what military history is today: broad-based, inclusive, and written from a wide range of perspectives. In an essay for The American Historical Review in 2007, Robert Citino wrote: “Once controversial, and still the occasional subject of grumbling from a traditionalist old guard, the new military history is today an integral, even dominant, part of the parent field from which it emerged. It has been around so long, in fact, and has established itself so firmly, that it seems silly to keep calling it “new.”[2]
(Continued at the link below)

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