This article uses recent English-language historical accounts of the 1707 siege of the French naval base of Toulon by the army of Prince Eugene of Savoy as a case study of the distortions that can occur when the authors of these accounts have not made full use of works written at the time of the events they treat and, in particular, are ignorant of the historical literature on the subject in languages other than their own (in this case, works in French, German, and Italian). The author believes that these shortcomings in the English-language literature on the military history of the 1688–1748 period, which currently dominates the field, demonstrate how much work remains to be done on every aspect of this crucial period, addressing once again problems that everyone believed had been closed for good.
The rise of professionalism in the U.S. armed forces has been a hotly debated topic. Some, like Samuel P. Huntington, believe that it emerged in the postbellum era. Others, like William B. Skelton, assert that the U.S. Army had the ingredients of a profession before the Civil War. This study contends that the U.S. Navy also exhibited professional qualities before the Civil War. Beginning in 1845, it had a centralized school for selecting and training officers at Annapolis, Maryland. Then, at sea, as students progressed from year to year, the navy assessed almost scientifically their abilities as officer-trainees.
The assumption that the government has an obligation to name and count the military dead only emerged in the United States as a result of the Civil War experience. A massive postwar reburial program dedicated to identifying and reinterring every Union soldier was paralleled by intensive public and private efforts accurately to number the war's losses, which had not been carefully compiled by either North or South during the conflict. In an era of increasing preoccupation with statistics, an enumeration of the dead came to seem imperative to understanding the Civil War's unanticipated scale and destructiveness.
In October 1936, two exceptional Royal Air Force pilots flew privately to Germany to see what they could discover about the Luftwaffe. Their report, now in Britain's National Archives, has never been published, but was used by Winston Churchill in his efforts to alert the British government to the danger of aerial attack. The airmen were well received everywhere and permitted to fly on their own over Berlin. They examined and even flew the latest bombers and met members of the élite Richthofen Squadron, Ernst Udet, and Heinrich Koppenberg. Greatly impressed by German air power, they urged the British Air Ministry to focus on a Wellington-Blenheim strike force, backed by Hurricane and Spitfire fighters.
This article reviews all dedicated English-language studies of the Polish military in World War II. It follows a chronological order subdivided by separation into Land Army, Air, Naval, Underground, and Clandestine and Intelligence Services. The review begins with the September 1939 Campaign, and follows the European war as it pertained to the Polish cause. This bibliography is supplemented by references to specific campaign studies, where Polish contributions are discussed in more than just a passing reference. Finally, it includes references to archival material when the discussion of the bibliography in its historical context requires such clarification.
Military history can and should play a role, even a prominent role, in debates over strategy and policy in wartime. The problem begins when partisans, polemicists, and ideologues pluck examples from past military campaigns or wars that are subsequently interpreted in ways that support policy and strategy decisions. In the case of the current "long war," neoconservative and neoimperialist historians construct and reconstruct interpretations of the past in ways deliberately calculated to promote and sustain a policy agenda. The danger is that history twisted by some partisans into an apologia for contemporary American policy, and ultimately as a weapon of intimidation to silence doubt, dissent, disagreement, and even debate, serves neither the cause of history, nor of policy and strategy formulation, nor even of democracy in a moment of national peril.
The conception and practice of military history, once regarded as the foundation for any understanding of war, has responded cautiously to the momentous intellectual and contemporary developments of the past half century. While our conservative habits have encouraged a degree of professional maturity as a field, military history's intellectual authority has declined as other disciplines have taken more adventurous approaches to the study of war and assumed a more prominent role in contemporary military criticism. Yet because of military history's intellectual progress, the power of military history to range beyond its conservatism and to address contemporary military problems is greater than ever.