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Introduction Fragments of History Military history evolved a great deal in the past century. Traditionally, the “drum and trumpet” genre dealt with heroes and the glory earned in battle.As the field of academic history developed in the early days of the twentieth century, teachers disdained that approach and attempted to bar it from the classroom. At the annual American Historical Association meeting in 1912, a few RegularArmy officers and academics, including the famous Harvard professor Albert Bushnell Hart, gathered to discuss the future of military history in academe. The then president of the AHA, Theodore Roosevelt, attended this session and advocated that military history should broaden its approach. Not surprisingly, there was little change in most academics’ bias. Four years later, Captain Arthur Conger, a Harvard graduate, published an article about military history and academe in the Mississippi Valley Review which acknowledged the flaws of “drum and trumpet” history and recognized that the government did not want to release facts that discredited the military or itself. He argued that “the exact truth” should be told. Then he deplored those who argued that military history should be suppressed. While many academics strongly supported the American effort in World War I, their interest quickly vanished after the war. A poll taken in 1937 showed that 95 percent ofAmericans were against fighting in a war. Pearl Harbor radically changed the situation. In World War II, the military services covered the war with historians. The result was the postwar history programs that continued to study the war and publish many volumes about the conduct of the conflict. The army program included logistics as well as combat operations. However, academe still had little interest in military history. In 1954, Richard Brown published the results of a survey of 493 colleges and universities, but, aside from courses taught in the ROTC programs, only thirty-seven schools offered or planned to offer military history courses. He also 2   The Embattled Past found that only five had graduate courses specifically for military history students, with a total of forty to forty-five students enrolled. In 1962, Louis Morton, a Dartmouth professor who had been chief of the army’s Pacific history section and the author of two books in the army history program, published “The Historian and the Study of War” in the Mississippi Valley Review. Although forty-six years had passed since Conger’s article appeared in the same journal, the hostility of academics toward military history had not changed much. Morton observed that they regarded “war as an aberration . . . a subject unworthy of study if not outright dangerous. It is almost as if they hoped by ignoring war they might eliminate it altogether.” By the time his article was published, academe had begun to open the door slightly for military historians. Several universities hired them and began to offer graduate programs in the field. In the 1970s, 110 schools offered the subject. In 1991, Professor Paul Kennedy of Yale predicted that because of the profusion of so many military history programs there would be a shortage of qualified Ph.D.s to teach it as the subject eclipsed other genres. This prediction was overly optimistic. The field, however, has expanded in academe during the last twenty years. Military history has always had a large number of readers. After all, it is about major events in which nations have to deal with great challenges. The president of the History Book Club reported in the early years of this century that 40 percent of their selections were about military history. In 2003, Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn, about theAmericans fighting in NorthAfrica in World War II, received the Pulitzer Prize, as did, two years later, David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing, which detailed Washington’s defeat of the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey. Since then, Atkinson has published The Day of Battle about the Italian campaign and also the third and last volume of his trilogy about the American campaign from D-day in Normandy to the surrender of the Germans eleven months later. Although Fischer has not published as much about military history as Atkinson, he emphasizes it in the survey of American history course that he teaches at Brandeis University. In 2003 the Organization of American Historians published two surveys of the membership that came up with surprising evidence Introduction   3 about members’ interest in military history. One was about recent scholarship in articles, books, and dissertations. Military history ranked seventh...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813142685
Print ISBN
9780813142661
MARC Record
OCLC
869303835
Pages
212
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-27
Language
English
Open Access
N
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