“Military History Old and New”

John Brown Mural from Kansas State Capital via Flickr

In the journal article “ Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction,” the author, Robert Citino, a Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University, analyzed the reasons why military history is struggling in academic circles. Citino stated that as military history has increased in popularity in television and movies; its “academic footprint” has become smaller and will continue to shrink (Citino 2007, 1070). Even though military history’s popularity has decreased among professionals, military historians have continued their research, and over the past decade, military history has split into three categories. As a result, Citino needed to conduct a literature review on all three categories in order to establish a complete historical analysis of military history. 

The first of the three subcategories that Citino discussed was “new military history.” This category of military history is not just interested in warfighting but is interested in the effects of military conflict on society. For example, Citino mentioned a book called The Crucible of War, which is about the Seven Years War. In this book, the author did not just tell the story of the three continents involved in this conflict, instead they provided insight into the French and Indain War and the origins of the American Revolution. In addition, Citino mentioned that “new military history” has allowed military historians to discuss different angles of World War II central to the different conflicts. This is especially true for historians that have worked to move the Holocaust out of the margins and place it centrally wiithin World War II. By acknowledging books on these topics, Citino allowed for the conclusion that “new military history” leaves space for discussion and discovery of diverse topics and being inclusive of events that happened before or as a result of a specific military conflict. 

The second category discussed was operational military history, which focuses on the battlefields rather than the hows and whys of warfare. In the article, Citino referred to these historians as the ones who enjoy “…blaming General X for zigging when they should have zagged” and the ones who like to include statistical data (1079). In this section, Citino discussed many operational military historians, two of the prominent ones were Dennis E. Showalter and Reed Browning. By explaining operational military history and including various history books, Citino encouraged readers to conclude that without operational military history the diverse stories of “new military history” would not be able to exist. 

The final category was the application of historical inquiry on military affairs. This means that those who write for this subcategory rely on memory and culture. To historians of this category, words are more important because in the end, they matter “… a great deal more than the brief war that generated them”(1082).An interesting point that Citino made when discussing this was that historical inquiry breaks new and old military history. The reasoning that could be concluded was that this final category is the complete opposite of the aforementioned categories. 

The literature that Citino used as examples included Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor. When he discussed the book on Gettysburg, Citino mentioned that the author felt that a nation’s constructed memory changes over time and that it was important to get feelings and opinions of those who had a different perspective. For the Battle of Gettysburg, it was important to identify the memories and accounts of a historian, a wife, a soldier, and an African American from that time period. Similar to writing about the Battle of Gettysburg, authors that write about the historical inquiry around Pearl Harbor are writing on the perspectives of diverse individuals, too. In the opinion of Emily Roseburg, the author of A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory, she sees that getting diverse participants’ stories generate memory rather than “producing history”(1083).

Citino’s article on military history provided an interesting perspective on this field. I especially liked how he ended the article by stating that he does not believe that the “estrangement” of military historians is not just their fault, but that it the fault of the entire historical community. So, in order for military history to gain popularity among the entire historical community, all historians need to work together to form a complete picture because without one field, the other field is not strong enough. 

Citino, Robert M. “Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction.” The American Historical Review 112, no. 4 (2007): 1070-090. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40008444.

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