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"Why is military history in retreat at universities?" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2021 3:10 p.m. PST

"In 2019, Trip Advisor rated the Canadian War Museum the second-most important destination in Ottawa, just after the nation's parliament buildings.

The museum's more than 500,000 on-site visitors, and tens of thousands more online, as well as travelling exhibitions across Canada, are all signs that Canadians, like their counterparts in the United States, Britain, Israel and New Zealand, have an almost insatiable interest in military history.

"And yet," says Tim Cook, an award-winning and best-selling historian at the Canadian War Museum, "you'd think, with the interest in the museum, my books and those of people like Jack Granatstein and Ted Barris, the two universities in the city and those across the country would have military history programmes instead of a smattering of courses…"
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General Kirchner08 Mar 2021 4:04 p.m. PST

because learning and teaching truth is no longer the objective at universities…..

John the OFM08 Mar 2021 5:24 p.m. PST

Because nobody who teaches history in college today is interested in military history Or qualified to teach it.
And nobody cares.

USAFpilot Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2021 5:59 p.m. PST

Learning in general is in retreat at our universities. It's been replaced with an number of absurd things that are considered "woke".

The future has us all living in equity in poverty, except for a few elites.

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2021 7:14 p.m. PST

Give me a break. Teaching all history at college levels has been in decline since the early 1970s. Students would rather earn a degree that has a job waiting and a big income like Wall Street. Same issue for other fields of study.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2021 8:11 p.m. PST

A certain amount of the problem is at the high school level, where nobody wants to hire history teachers. They want to concentrate on what people really want: hiring coaches, who can hopefully teach a few history or government classes on the side. Sometimes this works well, other times, not so much.


Glengarry508 Mar 2021 10:59 p.m. PST

Because military history is "icky". There seems to be this magical thinking that means studying war is simply reinforcing and rewarding toxic masculinity while somehow studying war causes more war.

Oddball09 Mar 2021 5:09 a.m. PST

USAFpilot – very good point.

I worked at 2 major Boston area universities during my undergrad and graduate years (hey, free tuition) and was shocked at how uninformed most of the university faculty and students were to, well…… life.

Let's not even get into offering classes on unacceptable topics.

Dan Cyr – I wish I had gotten degrees in something that could have gotten me a job when I got out.

I was told (and told my nephew, who didn't listen) that if you get a History degree you can do 3 things.

1) You can teach
2) You can write
3) You can be an interesting dinner guest

but you are not going to get a job that can support you with History degree.

I had a years long struggle doing low paying jobs until I went back for a Master's in a field that I could get a job in.

My nephew who graduated 2 years ago lives in my sister's basement and works at a warehouse. For awhile I worked on an assembly line in a factory.

Nothing wrong with working at a warehouse, my father with an 8th grade education did it until he dropped on the job of a heart attack at 73. Education was important to him as he never had an opportunity. He put all his kids through college.

Just an example of the limits of a college History degree.

Kevin C Supporting Member of TMP09 Mar 2021 7:56 a.m. PST

I am a History professor, and over the last 15 years I have served as academic advisor for between 25-50 History majors each semester. The vast majority of my graduates now work in careers in their chosen fields (including in traditional non-History related fields). Promoting your advisees' success means tailoring their academic schedules to meet their specific objections and finding opportunities (such as internships, opportunities to present papers, etc.) that will make them more competitive when they apply for a job, law school, or graduate school.

Dukewilliam09 Mar 2021 10:50 a.m. PST

My brother has been a military historian for almost three decades. He claims there are more students trying to get into their program than ever. He (almost) has more grad students than he can handle, half of which are female.

I dunno. Maybe the perception is skewed? Maybe his case is not the norm?

I also have a history degree but worked 25 years in the behavioral health field as a Behavior Specialist Consultant due to a Masters in Education; my dreams of being a Medieval scholar unrealized as the realities of paying bills became too real.


Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP09 Mar 2021 10:50 a.m. PST

American universities have been anti-military since at least the 1960's. I was spit on at the University of Washington one morning because I was in BDUs; I had to drop off a paper before going out for my weekend Army Reserve drill. That was around 1998. The long-haired butt-nugget who did the spitting is probably still wondering why he's unemployed and being oppressed by The Man.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP09 Mar 2021 11:49 a.m. PST



Green Tiger09 Mar 2021 10:53 p.m. PST

In the UK military history wasn't taught at all as a stand alone degree subject in my day – I don't know if is now? – you could do the odd module as part of a history degree but that was it. In more recent years however the number of post-graduate courses available has rocketed. My university (King's) has Defence Studies, War Studies & Strategic Studies departments with so many students that the professors don't even know what is being studied in their own departments. There are similar departments now in a fair number of other universities so I would say the subject was thriving in the UK at least.

Tacitus09 Mar 2021 11:15 p.m. PST

My MA courses included military history courses in ACW, WW2, Rome, Greece, Alexander, Napoleon, Crusades. Degree just says "History." So maybe the courses are there but the specialty is not?

Swampking10 Mar 2021 9:14 a.m. PST

We've discussed this before.

I looked on Google for "Military History" courses during that discussion and found a total of 8 in the United States. That's not 8 programs but ONLY 8 COURSES!

I believe another problem is that the Humanities (not just History but psychology, sociology and other associated disciplines) have been inundated with women. NO offense intended toward women but their interests are quite different than men when it comes to higher learning.

The 'woke' crowd remind me a lot of Marcy Darcy off of "Married with Children" everything that heterosexual men like they're out to destroy and keep men from enjoying. Sports has become 'woke', American TV is nothing but 'woke', jokes are nonexistent, no one seems to have any honor or dignity basically, it's a complete degenerated culture and society. It started at the universities in the 1960s, gathered steam in the 1970s and 1980s, came to fruition in the 1990s and saw an opening in 2008-2015. Now, the United States is reaping what it has sown.

HansPeterB Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2021 11:30 a.m. PST

Thank you Tango for the link to an interesting article that does a good job, I think, of framing the issue. Some of the comments, however, and particularly those that denigrate academia generally, are neither accurate nor helpful.

By the way, I'm a professor and Dept. chair at a public US university (UND) and while it is true that military history does not have the prominence it did in the past, the issue is complicated.

First of all, military history broadly conceived is certainly not dead. My institution offers courses in US military history, the Origins of Modern War, WW2, and Modern War (Vietnam to the present). These are all popular with students regularly fill to capacity.

Now, that said, we would also almost certainly not hire a tenure-track specialist in military history, but this is not because we are all a bunch of "woke" hippies and leftists. First of all, most professional historians simply find other fields more interesting than military history and particularly the sort of operational studies that we tend to associate most readily with military writing. That led to the whole "new military history" movement, and to the current preference among most academics to try to integrate military affairs into broader contexts, either narrative or thematic. Indeed, when you think about it, studying, say, the AWI as an exercise in purely "military history," without going into the political, social, and diplomatic context, is not going to provide a good understanding of any aspect of conflict. And today's students, for the most part, are certainly not going to take multiple history courses on a single event, no matter how important. So we certainly cover military affair but seldom as our primary focus.

Secondly, today's universities require frequent peer reviewed publication as a condition of continued employment, and for reasons related to the points above that's a lot easier to achieve for those working in the fields of social or cultural history than military history strictly defined.

And then finally, it's true that with funding for History positions at low ebb, what little enthusiasm remains calls for hiring that supports civic and cultural literacy, and social justice. You may disagree with these priorities, but given what our students need, they are not unreasonable, which is why they pertain even in so conservative a state as North Dakota.

As some of you have pointed out, History programs are not primarily vocational, although most of our graduates do manage to somehow find good jobs. Our Department is in fact one of the best endowed in our College, due to the generosity of our alumni, who have not only somehow managed to make their way in the world, but also value their academic experience enough to donate considerable sums. Nonetheless, because our courses are not tied to a specific career track, we need to justify them on other grounds, and at the moment it is easier to justify a course that will educate students about, say, the history of American slavery than a military history of the Civil War.

Sorry for the length of the post, but perhaps this perspective might be valuable.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2021 11:54 a.m. PST

No mention my friend!

Thanks for the post!.


Garand10 Mar 2021 5:46 p.m. PST

As someone with a history degree as well, I can attest that having just a degree in History does not lead to earning the big bucks. I have yet to work in a job in which my degree was directly useful. In fact, all of my jobs post graduation did not even require a degree. Which is why I am looking at other educational opportunities that have nothing to do with History.

On the topic of military history, one of my senior year professors commented that studyng pure military history was an exercize in studying trivia. Outside specialists that need to know (like the actual military), researching the Battle of Kursk FREX doesn't necessarily lead to greater insights on WWII, causes, conduct & resolution of the war. It is far less important to know how many T-34s were in the PzGrenDiv Das Reich than the course of events that lead the Germans to thinking it was a good idea. The broad picture is more important than the details. I'm not sure I disagree.


Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2021 7:29 p.m. PST

+1 Garand

I too got my degrees in history, even bowing to get an education degree in hopes of finding a HS teaching position. After interviewing for such positions (one required that I teach music in addition and the rest mentioned sports teams), I opted out to get a job in construction making twice the offered teaching jobs my first full year and increasing the difference as time went on.

Now retired, like you I never found a teaching position and left a doctrinal track with 2 courses to go, to work in IT making 3-4 times what teachers make in HS and at least as much as college tenured professors.

Its a sad reality.

ancientsgamer Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2021 3:12 p.m. PST

Well because teaching history just might show how the different flavors of Socialism are more problematic economically and politically than said institutions would care to admit? Much easier to carry on with blinders and classroom "theory" vs reality.

von Schwartz ver 211 Mar 2021 3:17 p.m. PST

Being a bit of a history junkie I sometimes make historical references in day-to-day conversations and I am shocked at how many times my comment is totally misunderstood or, more commonly only generates a confused look on someones face.

Example we were discussing the most recent political situation in the US and, to make a long story short AND avoid the dawghouse, I used a quote by Stalin. I didn't really expect anyone to recognize the quote but when I said it came from Stalin, I got an equally confused look, "Who's that". I was stunned that a grpup of 30-something year olds had no idea who he was or what he did. I was also told by a kid in wargame oriented shop that the Germans won at Kursk.

Green Tiger11 Mar 2021 10:52 p.m. PST

Jobs wise – totally agree with the above – I have three degrees (fourth underway) – History, Military History, Museum Studies – I HAVE worked in jobs that use my knowledge and expertise but I have yet to reach the UK average wage. I am now 50 so probably won't. I personally think a university degree is about broadening the mind rather than enhancing your CV but it seems that idea is somewhat old-fashioned.

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2021 8:37 p.m. PST

+ 1 Green Tiger

I spent most of my time in IT where at least the salary is good, but far from using anything I'd learned on my way towards my history degrees.

However, it was always fun to reply to the question of my specialty with my saying I was an expert on the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and would they be interested in learning more. Also fun to start discussing the Algerian War and the collapse of the 4th Republic in 1958 and its impact on modern Europe (since I lived in France at the time as a child, I could remember the bombings in Paris).

One gains an education to be educated, not to just make money. Sadly, many of us in the humanities have learned this fact painfully.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2021 3:09 p.m. PST

I agree that military history may be too limited in scope to study on its own and makes much more sense in a broader context, at least from an academic point of view. I also think that military history is full of life lessons, good and evil, lots of heroes and bad guys, ideas and inspiration. Like people with English degrees, people with history degrees seem to me to write and think in certain ways that are assets in other pursuits. But technology rules, and I think that's why curriculum has changed.
Technology has changed the way we learn and communicate, perhaps taking some of the humanity out of the humanities.

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2021 2:45 p.m. PST

Military history is really just a study of human behavior and industrial psychology, as captured by a specific slice of the human experience (armed conflict). It's fascinating to see why groups of people fight, how war changes the societies who are embroiled in it, and how much of warfare is shaped and driven by psychology and societal norms.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2021 8:59 p.m. PST

This is an interesting view….

Locating the Present in the Past: a World History Teaching Challenge



von Schwartz ver 210 May 2021 11:31 a.m. PST

The right and center gave way, overwhelmed on the left flank

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