Nov 05 2007
Following up on David Stone’s “Glass Half-Full” piece of 30 August, I submit the following conclusion to a commentary that will appear in a special January 2008 issue of The Russian Review devoted to the Russo-Japanese War. My piece is one of three commentaries written in response to three articles on the conflict, two of which are in the realm of cultural history. The other is by a social historian. As you can see, I had the same thought as David when I read Robert Townsend’s piece in Perspectives last January. I would be interested to know if there are any military historians in our field who do feel beleaguered.
LET A HUNDRED FLOWERS BLOOM
None of the three essays directly addresses military history. This fact might well confirm the worst fears of its practitioners, who periodically lament their field’s decline. In a recent editorial, the Classics scholar Victor David Hanson lamented “the loneliness of the military historian,” a sentiment shared by Frederick Kagan in his essay, “Why Military History Matters.” The discipline incontestably suffered in North America as a result of Vietnam War-era distaste for armed conflict. However, a recent American Historical Association study demonstrates that between 1975 and 2005 the number of history departments on U.S. campuses with at least one specialist in the field has risen from 29.9 percent to 36.2 percent. The study of war has also benefited from the growing awareness among scholars that social, cultural, intellectual, and other disciplinary approaches not commonly associated with the former both enrich the former and enhances its legitimacy. In this regard, the three essays should encourage the military historian in the knowledge that she or he is not so lonely after all.
-from David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, “Rewriting the Russo-Japanese War: A Centenary Retrospective” The Russian Review 67 (Forthcoming in January 2008), 87.