Apr 06 2008
US News is the latest venue to weigh in on the sad state of military history. What I am struck by, once again, is the relentless failure to quantify, coupled by a distinct lack of historical perspective. The money quote, from my point of view, is this:
The field that inspired the work of writers from Thucydides to Winston Churchill is, today, only a shell of its former self. The number of high-profile military history experts in the Ivy League can be counted on one hand. Of the more than 150 colleges and universities that offer a Ph.D. in history, only a dozen offer full-fledged military history programs. Most military historians are scattered across a collection of midwestern and southern schools, from Kansas State to Southern Mississippi. “Each of us is pretty much a one-man shop,” says Carol Reardon, a professor of military history at Penn State University and the current president of the Society for Military History.
Several things leap out at me. First of all, the claim that the field is a shadow of its formal self has absolutely no documentation. That claim requires showing what was the case in the past, and what is the case now, and there’s no effort to do that. At what point in the past did the Ivies have lots of military historians on staff? At what point were there more than a dozen full-fledged military history programs? I apologize for ruthless self-promotion, but I’m waiting for someone to come up with better numbers than the ones I’ve presented on this blog and on H-War, suggesting that MORE institutions have military historians today than in 1975, and that the absolute number of military historians has tripled.
Carol Reardon is of course correct that the vast majority of military historians are one-man shops, but the vast majority of all types of historians at the vast majority of institutions are one-man shops.
Clearly lots of people want to show that military history is a field in decline. Can they produce some numbers, instead of anecdotes, to show that?