Sunday, April 9, 2017

Blog CCXXXI (231): The State of Military History (Part 4)

Editorial Note: This posting is part of an exceptionally long essay on the status of military history.  Since it is over 5,000 words in length, it has been divided into four parts.  Click here to read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

All to the good, but I believe the piece never gets to some of the real strengths of military history.  The popularity of the topic in book stores is not the strongest of these.  (Few academics are ever going to write a book that sells 20 or 30 thousand copies—which in the commercial world of New York based publishing houses is still pretty small).  The strength comes from the fact that the military needs military history and supports the field in many, many ways.  (Some of what follows are points that Lynn made in his 2008 article.) 

First, there is more money in the field than in many others within the history business.  The private foundations associated with many military schools and history centers have book awards, article prizes, dissertation grants, fellowships, visiting professorships, and sabbaticals.

Another factor, perhaps the most important, is that there are a lot of non-academic jobs for military
historians.  Each branch of the U.S. armed services has a history center that employs history Ph.D.s to produce official histories.  (This situation also exists to a lessor degree in other English-speaking countries).  Although many historians might look at these as studies as propaganda, that view misleads more than it informs.  These studies are honest efforts on the part of a large bureaucracy to learn lessons about its past performances that it can use in the future.  These official studies do not preclude historians from asking other questions.  There are probably going to be other issues that future historians will want to discuss, and the official histories do not foreclose these questions.  In fact, in many ways they help facilitate interest in the topic, and access to the documents.  One final point, many units also have command historians who are part archivists, part on demand researcher, and part analyst.  People working in these positions often have much more influence on events than professors sitting in an ivory tower.

These are also teaching jobs, like mine, at military schools like the Naval War College, or the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and so on.  The students you interact with, be they undergraduates at one of the academies or mid-career professionals at a staff college, are very, very good.  They eagerly consume military history, not because they are history buffs—some are—but because it is a tool in their professional development.  It is also worth noting that all of these jobs pay much, much better than the academic average.

The Society for Military History, the main academic organization in the United States for historians focusing on this field, is impressively run.  Although it is scholarly outfit, it is very welcoming of those holding jobs outside of academia.  My guess is that roughly a third of the people on the program have jobs outside of an academic history department.  Although it is American organization it is globally minded.  Its journal—The Journal of Military History—publishes articles and book reviews on all time periods and regions.  So, you will probably see articles on both the Confederate States Army as well as the Mongol Horde, and reviews of books about military innovation under Louis XIV as well as the performance of various Arab armies in the 1960s.  The journal has also published foreign scholars.  What is more impressive is that SMH has held its annual meeting outside the continental United States and has had a foreign scholar serve as its president.  The organization has a $00,000 budget and has a paid staff to manage its day-to-day operations.

Another factor is that military history has a constituency outside of academia.  Politicians, journalists and big dollar donors like military history.  During this public debate on military history, several people without a Ph.D. in history intervened and shaped decisions. There are two ways to look at these interventions, either: a) academics bent to this outside pressure, and did things they would not have done, like filling the Ambrose-Hesseltine professorship; or 2) academia responded to the attention that the debate was getting and gave the field more coverage in journals and conferences to explore an issue on which society had an interest. (In many ways, this influence has been exceptionally important, and is one of the reasons why I believe Logevall and Osgood might end up winning the debate they started in 2016 about political history).

Another strength is that there are a lot and I do mean a lot of venues for military history.  By my count there are at the moment 22 peer-reviewed academic journals published in English that do military history: 
  1. Air Power History
  2. British Journal for Military History
  3. Canadian Military History 
  4. Civil War History
  5. First World War Studies
  6. International Journal of Military History and Historiography
  7. International Journal of Naval History
  8. The Irish Sword
  9. Journal of the Australian War Memorial
  10. Journal of Chinese Military History
  11. Journal of the Civil War Era
  12. Journal of Medieval Military History
  13. The Journal of Military History
  14. Journal of Slavic Military Studies
  15. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research
  16. Journal of Strategic Studies
  17. Military History Journal
  18. Military History of the West
  19. Small Wars & Insurgencies
  20. U.S. Military History Review
  21. War in History
  22. War & Society
There are more if you look at French-, Spanish- and/or German-language journals.  There are at least six more if you look at the journals focused on diplomatic history; the realm of strategic history is
often where military and diplomatic history meet, and these journals have often published articles that are part military, part diplomatic in nature.  Those are just the academic journals.  If one includes the professional, military periodicals that the various armed services produce, and/or the magazines aimed at the general public, this list could be very close to 100.  That is a lot of venues to get your ideas out to an audience, and places to have your work reviewed.

It is possible to go too far with this argument.  “Military history has always been marginal; unfortunately, the golden age of military history never existed,” Stone stated.  “Military history has been isolated in the academy for as long as there has been an academy.” Case in point, after he came to the Naval War College, Kansas State did not replace him.  There is also still push back in academia.  There was a prominent job search for a position in military history at a major university in 2016-2017 that apparently did not get filled.  There is all sorts of gossip as to why.  

While it is misleading to use the metaphor of a turning point, the public debate does suggest something has changed.  The real questions to ask are:  How much? Where? And for how long?

Editorial Note: click here to read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Blog CCXXX (230): The State of Military History (Part 3)

Editorial Note: This posting is part of an exceptionally long essay on the status of military history.  Since it is over 5,000 words in length, it has been divided into four parts.  Click here to read part 1, part 2, and part 4.

In many ways, the public debate on military history slowly started to simmer down in 2009 when Wisconsin hired a historian to fill the Ambrose-Hesseltine professorship in U.S. military history.  The university either had enough funds to "top off" the accounts that fund the position, or the faculty in the history department realized they had to hire the position.  My read of the situation is that it was probably both.  I would give it a 60/40 division of responsibility, but which side you give 60 percent, and which you give 40 is something I will leave to the reader. 

In several other ways military historians scored several substantial victories.  Major venues in academic history began making concessions to military history.  By my less than stringent count, the AHA had 30 sessions related to military history at its 2015 meeting.  That same year the OAH held a roundtable on the status of military history.  Mark Grimsley made his comments available on his blog.  He argued that the field was much stronger than when he wrote "Why Military History Sucks."  He also agreed with the position that Lynn took that there were a number of different career paths for the military historian:
PhDs who specialize in military history have four viable career tracks: civilian academe, to be sure; but also PME, public history (where there is considerable demand for expertise in military history), and national security research institutions such as RAND Corporation. I once pointed this out to a colleague of mine, who shrugged it off with a jibe about the 'military-industrial-academic complex.'  The colleague, safely ensconced in a tenured berth, could afford to take such a view. My students can’t. Consequently, nor can I.  As the anecdote suggests, in my view it remains a fact that military history lags badly in terms of its acceptance within academe. This does not mean that tenured radicals are driving military history out of the academy, as the National Review asserted in 2006; much less that it has been “purged” from the academy, as the Wall Street Journal declared in 2009. In fact, there are more graduate programs in military history that at any preceding time. However, I continue to find that historians outside of military history frequently look askance at the field, usually on the basis of unexamined assumptions.
My take: this assessment is basically correct.  My quibble is with the assumption that there are  jobs for history Ph.D.s in the think tank world.  These institutions want Ph.D.s but not historians.  Other than that, he is basically correct.  Academics look down upon military history and always have, except—according to some research I have done—during the 1942-1945 time period. 

In 2010 Stone of Kansas State wrote a short, but important article, “The Future of Military History: A Glass Half Full,” in  Historical Speaking (April 2010), 33-34.  He designed this essay as a rejoinder to the symposium that had taken place in the journal on military history.  This piece is one of the most interesting contributions to this public debate, because it broke away from the "woe-upon-me" school of thought that had dominated so much of the public debate about military history's role in the profession.  “There’s good reason to believe that military history is as strong as it has ever been for all the reasons listed in the symposium.” These factors included strong enrollments, public interest in the topic, and financial support from think tanks and foundations interested in the field.  The real acid test for military history or another sub-field is employment options.  Here the evidence is ambiguous.  Trying to find a job as a history professor, regardless of specialization, is amazingly difficult these days.  Stone’s research of data from the American Historical Association found the percentage of faculty teaching military history ranged between 2 and 3 percent from 1975 to 2005.  Departments offering courses in military history fluctuated between 30 and 35 percent.  Those numbers are not particularly great, but neither are they as bad as many in the public debate had assumed.  Another factor that Stone found is quite interesting.  In absolute terms the number of military historians doubled from 1975 to 2005.  “It is worth keeping in mind that far more military historians are practicing their craft in American universities now than thirty years ago.” 

In 2012, Brian Sandberg of Northern Illinois University, writing on the blog of the Society for Military History, argued there had been a clear turning of the tide in the historiography: "In case you haven't notice, violence studies are in. There has been a steady flood of publications on warfare and violence over the past decade". He cited the publication of major works, such as Peter H. Wilson’s The Thirty Years’ War: Europe’s Tragedy, Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, and Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.  His reasons for this change were fairly simple.  "The shock of the September 2001 Attacks, the lengthy commitment of the Afghan War, and the polemics surrounding the Iraq War have all contributed to a massive growth in interest in the serious study of the history of violence and warfare."

The leadership of the SMH worked to take advantage of the turning of the tide with the release of its white paper: "The Role of Military History in the Contemporary Academy.” (I wrote about this document in Blog CXCIV (194): The SMH White Paper and the Future of Military History).  The paper hit on a major strength of military history:  "Our students’ desire for knowledge creates an important opportunity for Departments of History. The late recession has produced a drop in humanities majors as students seek courses that seem more likely to produce an immediate payoff in terms of jobs and wages. Legislative budget cuts have forced even state schools to conform to a tuition-driven model, and departments that cannot attract a sufficient number of students can expect hard times to get harder." All of that is true, but that fact that students often vote with their feet or their tuition is something that decision makers should consider. "University college administrators, particularly college deans and chairs of History Departments, may find some relief in the appeal of military history. Courses in military history tend to fill, not only with history majors and minors, but also with students from other disciplines who are interested in the field. And because military history intersects regularly with the profession’s other subfields, it can serve as an ideal gateway to the other specializations any given History Department has to offer. It may, as well, lure back some of the students who have been drawn away to political science, international relations, and public policy departments."

Because of this shift—which was subtle—critiques in journalistic venues went into hibernation for several years.  In 2016 Robert Neer reopened the debate with an article in Aeon, the digital magazine of ideas and culture. In "The US Military is Everywhere, Except History Books," Neer stated that "academic historians, especially those at the nation’s most richly endowed research universities, largely ignore the history of the US military."

Ann Little on her Historiann blog made her feelings clear with the title of a post on this topic entitled: "Here We Go Again: Military Historian Complains that No One Teaches or Writes about Military History Any More, Part Eleventybillion."  She observed: "Yes, it’s a perennial complaint we hear about the absence of military history, although it’s usually part of a not-very-sophisticated political attack on the other fields history departments also represent these days."  She makes another strong point:
If Neer were remotely curious about the world west of the Hudson River, he might discover that hundreds of state universities and colleges–Aggies, and the directionals, primarily, like North Texas, Texas A&M (two very prominent military history bastions he mentions in his article!), not to mention the University of Colorado and Colorado State University–hire in military history, teach military history classes, and promote colleagues who research and write in the field.  But none of this matters because Harvard, Yale, and Columbia don’t!  

Although this point is a strong one, I am of two minds of it.  First, I agree with Little; there is a lot more to the historical profession than the departments of eight private schools in the northeast.  On
the other hand, the Clauset, Arbesman, and Larremore, "Systematic Inequality" article that I spent so much time discussing on this blog makes it clear that eight schools (just not the eight in the Ivy League) are responsible for filling the majority of the good jobs in the profession and that kind of influence is significant.  So, there might be sound reason for getting upset about what a small handful of schools are doing, or not doing. 

Paul Huard wrote a news story on the defense news web site: War is Boring.  The title of  his article is interesting: "The Battle Over U.S. Military History Loved by Ordinary Americans, Hated by Scholars? The Answer is More Complicated Than You Might Think," but the piece fails to deliver on the complexity it suggests.   Huard repeats the argument that military was dominated academia in the past—it did not—and the old argument that it is popular with the general public, just not academics.  “I’m not going to criticize anyone’s interest in any kind of history,” Little is quoted in the story. “We need audiences to buy and read our books. But I will suggest that popular writers of the ‘battles, bullets and bios’ school underestimate their reading audience.”  She also adds: “I think anyone who will buy and read serious nonfiction should be treated like a sentient and thoughtful adult who can handle the complexity or ambiguity of warfare. Many, if not all, are not necessarily looking for another heroic biography or another reflexively and stupidly patriotic treatment of military history.”

Little appreciated the article: "Interestingly, both in Huard’s article and in recent private correspondence between me and Neer, we probably agree on more than we disagree."

Neer and Huard were not the only ones advancing these views in 2016.  Max Boot, wrote an article "Teaching to the Narrative" in Commentary magazine on the Logevall and Osgood debate on political history.  He was sympathetic to their arguments, but tried to turn the conversation back to military history: "The failure is even more serious in the field of military history which has been all but drummed out of the prestigious universities."

Editorial Note: click here to read part 1, part 2, and part 4.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Blog CCXXIX (229): The State of Military History (Part 2)

Editorial Note: This posting is part of an exceptionally long essay on the status of military history.  Since it is over 5,000 words in length, it has been divided into four parts.  Click here to read part 1, part 3, and part 4.

The wide-spread attention that these articles garnered had an impact among academic historians.  Two of the main journals within history—The Journal of American History and the American Historical Review—published historiographical assessment of military history in 2007.  These two articles were:
  • Wayne E. Lee, “Mind and Matter—Cultural Analysis in American Military History: A Look at the State of the Field,” Journal of American History, 93 (March 2007), 1116-1160
  • Robert M. Citino, “Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction,” American Historical Review, 112 (October 2007), 1070-1090. 
Lee's article was the centerpiece of a roundtable in the JAH on the state of military history.  Lee, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, examines the cultural turn in military
history, which he sees as a different topic and approach from the social history approach that had been so central to the "war and society" view of military history.   A number of historians: Sir Basil Liddell Hart, Russell Weigley, Victor Davis Hanson, and John Keegan have pushed the idea that there are cultural norms within the military and the larger society that shape a distinctive approach to war.  This article was an interesting historiographical examination of work on the U.S. Army, and—to a much lesser degree—the U.S. Air Force.  “Cultural analysis in military history should connect that "idea template" to wartime behavior, while recognizing that there may be different templates at different levels with in the military and the political leadership,” he argued. 

Four historians offered their assessments in the pages that followed.  A trio of foreign scholars (Brian P. Farrell of the National University of Singapore, Marc Milner of the University of New Brunswick, and Brian Holden Reid of King’s College London) argued that there was a need for comparative studies of the U.S. and British Armies to see if there really was a distinct cultural approach to war as so many argue.  Ronald H. Spector in his commentary added that ground power dominated military history and that scholars needed to look more at naval power.

The other major article of 2007 was Robert M. Citino’s “Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction,” a 20 page historiography.  He starts the article with a tired observation: “Military
history today is in the same curious position it has been in for decades: extremely popular with the American public at large, and relatively marginalized within professional academic circles.”  He also notes “its academic footprint continues to shrink, and it has largely vanished from the curriculum of many of our elite universities.  It has been this way for a long time, and frankly, there seems little chance that things will change any time soon.”  Fortunately, he does not spend the rest of this essay belaboring this point.  He notes that there are three main subjects that military history explores: war and society; operational history; and the history of memory.  His discussion of the literature goes back a hundred years to the work of English and German Medieval historians who tied changes in military technology to the rise of feudalism.  (Historians since have disputed these views).  He also discusses more recent military histories of Ancient Greece, Rome and then moves to Southwest, South, and East Asia before spending a good deal of time in early modern Europe, and then the United States. 

Despite this wide ranging account, he did not get to everything.  His analysis ignored accounts about the application of military power at sea and in the air.  (Then again, not many people write on these topics.  That probably has something to do with a larger unfamiliarity with the sea and the air as transportation venues among historians.  There is plenty of scholarship on railroads and the auto industry; far less on maritime or aviation history).  His study also tended to ignore strategic history—where military, political, and diplomatic history collide.  (This field is one in which social scientists rather historians dominate, so there might have been good reasons for Citino to pull his punches).   The long and short of it is this essay is an impressive, wide-ranging study that shows the diversity of military history.  If one is looking for a quick introduction to the field, they would have a difficult time trying to find a better starting point.

As these articles were going into print, another venue of opinion journalism fired a shot in this debate.  David A. Bell, a historian of Napoleonic France at Princeton University and a contributing editor for The New Republic entered the fray with his essay "Casualties of War: Military History Bites the Dust."  Bell argued the military history suffered because of the success of other fields. "Most historians pay scant attention to military history," he noted, "particularly the part that concerns actual military operations."  That might be a luxury that universities could no longer afford as the United States was in the midst of a long fight in the shadows against terrorists organizations like Al-Qaeda. 
In the real world, nonintellectual concerns constantly impinge upon what professors teach and write, while the question of the university's civic—as opposed to intellectual—obligations is not easily put aside. During the cold war, the government and private institutions like the Ford Foundation provided impressive funding for various sorts of 'area studies,' so as to increase American understanding of the regions in which we might find ourselves confronting the Soviets. It was not a question of forcing existing professors to teach or write on new subjects, but of encouraging movement into the desired areas.
The issue even entered the presidential campaign of 2008 when Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, a candidate for the Republican nomination, blamed the decline of military history on the ideological nature of university faculty.  "History that ignores the importance of warfare is not history," he remarked in a radio address.

In 2008 Lynn wrote another article on the state of military history for Academic Questions, the journal of the National Association of Scholars.  He argued in "Breaching the Walls of Academe: The Purposes, Problems, and Prospects of Military History" that there were three different kinds of military history: 1) popular; 2) academic; and 3) applied.  With those three distinctions in mind, much Military History, which boasts eighty thousand readers; its own book clubs; and now its own television channels. There is a great deal of money to be made on popular military history."  The problem with popular military history, he explains, is that to reach as wide an audience as possible it must take a superficial approach, which creates problems for academic military historians. 
of the criticism that had been fired in journalistic venues was aimed at the refusal of academic institutions to teach operational military history.  One of the odd things about history Ph.D.s is that there is not much of a demand for that degree outside of academia compared to a Ph.D. in other fields like civil engineering, economics, or marketing.  The military history Ph.D., as Lynn notes, is something of an exception: "Popular military history is, indeed, an industry. It fills bookracks in the United States and around the world. It has its own magazines and journals, for example,

I am not sure that Lynn is entirely correct.  What is popular with the public is the history of combat at the tactical and operational levels.  A lot of what the public consumes is superficial, but that probably has more to do with the venue than anything else.  (How much detail does a sixty minute documentary give compared to a book in even a best case scenario?)

Lynn is on better ground in his discussions of applied military history.  I should note that applied military history is basically what I do at the U.S Naval War College.  Lynn describes applied military history as "the use of military history as part of the professional education of officers and as a guide in establishing doctrine and planning and waging war."

From my experiences working at a military school, this point is basically correct.  The study of the past is exceptionally important to most armed services.  The military uses history as part of its professional development in a way few, if any, other professions do in contemporary American society.  "Historical examples can provide warnings against poorly conceived actions on strategic, operational, and tactical levels or in weaponry and logistics, while also suggesting more effective courses to follow. In addition, knowledge of the past can serve as a kind of checklist pointing the way to important factors to be considered now and in the future." 

Lynn makes one final point that in many ways gives historians of this field more influence than those in other sub-fields: "Military historians should be cognizant and proud of the fact that we pursue one of the rare sub-specialties of historical scholarship that is actually regarded as important for training and guidance by real world practitioners."

The debate even made the pages of the news magazine U.S. News & World Report when it was still a print publication.  In "Why Don't More Colleges Teach Military History?," Lee of UNC, Chapel Hill, offered the novel argument that the popularizers were actually a liability to military historians.   “They can make us look primitive in our approach to history,” he told the magazine.  “The solution isn’t to complain about it, but to try and generate military historians who do good work and creative work and who can speak the same language their colleagues do.”

In other ways, the article advanced the "woe-upon-me-as-the-honest-but-oppressed-military-historian" take on the field.  "Each of us is pretty much a one-man shop,” Carol Reardon of Penn State University told the magazine.  Russian military historian David R. Stone—then of Kansas State University, now a departmental colleague of mine—disputed this comment: “While it is certainly true that military historians are often isolated within their departments, that’s true of most historians in most fields.  I am part of a military history program at Kansas State, but when it comes to Russian and Soviet history here, it begins and ends with me.”  

The debate grew in force in 2009 when two major New York newspapers picked up on the topic.  In May, The Wall Street Journal printed the comments of Lewis E. Lehrman at the New-York Historical Society.  Lehrman, an investment banker who ran for governor of New York in 1982 as the Republican nominee, had played a role in establishing historical centers for the study of the U.S. Civil War at Yale University and Gettysburg College.  "The study of military history has in fact been purged from many of the faculties and curriculums of the universities of the Western world," he stated. "How did this happen? Perhaps it is explicable by some form of political correctness; or, parochial specialization; or, the armchair unrealism of the faculty lounge; even ivory tower snobbery—among other related social diseases."

A month later The New York Times entered the fray with a news article entitled:"Great Caesar’s Ghost! Are Traditional History Courses Vanishing?"  The article had a tone and took sides: 
Simply giving everyone a place at the table is just not affordable in an era of shrinking resources. “I’d love to let a hundred flowers bloom,” said Alonzo L. Hamby, a history professor at Ohio University in Athens, but “it’s hard for all but the largest departments or the richest.” In his own department of about 30 faculty members, a military historian recently retired, triggering a vigorous debate over how to advertise for a replacement. (A handful of faculty members had the view that “military history is evil,” Mr. Hamby said.) The department finally agreed to post a listing for a specialist in "U.S. and the world," he said, “the sort of mushy description that could allow for a lot of possibilities.”
Since this story was in The New York Times, it resulted in a flurry of commentary on blogs all over the internet.  All of them in disagreement:
The Historical Society devoted several issues of its journal, Historical Speaking, to discussions on the status of "traditional fields."  These included: intellectual history, military history, economic history, and naval history.
    My personal assessment is that these arguments are premised on the assumption that things were different in the days before Vietnam.  My own research on this topic, suggests quite strongly, that military history has never been a popular topic among academia...ever.  I wrote a paper on Theodore Roosevelt's tenure as president of the American Historical Association.  He was AHA president after his stay in the White House.  Needless to say, getting Roosevelt to serve in this position was a major coup for the organization.  The details, though, were a little less impressive.  Roosevelt decided to run for President again in 1912 and never attended any meetings of the AHA officers.  Most of the work of the AHA president feel on the vice president for that year.  Roosevelt did attend the 1913 annual meeting and gave the presidential address.  He also attended a session and spoke on the status of military history.  It was not a popular topic at the time, and many of the complaints people made in 1912 about the hostility of their colleagues towards their topics sound awful lot like those made a 100 years later.

    Editorial Note: click here to read part 1, part 3, and part 4.

    Wednesday, April 5, 2017

    Blog CCXXVIII (228): The State of Military History (Part 1)

    Editorial Note: This posting is part of an exceptionally long essay on the status of military history.  Since it is over 5,000 words in length, it has been divided into four parts.  Click here to read part 2, part 3, and part 4.

    The X-Men
    In 1963 Marvel Comics created the X-Men series, which in 2000 spawned into an extremely successful film franchise.  The X-Men characters are genetic mutations who have superhuman powers because of the presence of an extra gene.  These powers makes the X-Men special, but it also engenders hostility from the rest of society.  The irony of that situation makes the X-Men a very powerful metaphor to discuss a number of very different topics.

    Military history and its relationship to the rest of the profession is like the X-Men characters.  In many ways the field is at the bottom of the professional hierarchy, at least in academia.  In other ways, it is one of the strongest fields in the history business today.  Reflecting both those apparently contradictory assessments, there has been a long public debate on the status of the field.  Historians love to examine their fate and debate the state of their fields. These type of debates usually take  place in academic journals where the main audience is a professional one.  In this day and age, though, there are a number of other venues in which to advocate or commentate, and the debate on the fate of military history has often involved non-historians for better or for worse. 

    This debate was not the first examination on the status of military history.  There was a big one in the 1980s as the war and society approach grew in popularity.  This exchange, though, was traditional in nature.  It took place in academic journals and was aimed at specialists.  For examples, see:
    • Richard H. Kohn, "The Social History of the American Soldier: A Review and Prospectus for Research," American Historical Review, 86 (June 1981), 553-567.
    • Peter Karsten, "The 'New' American Military History: A Map of the Territory, Explored and Unexplored," American Quarterly, 36 (no. 3, 1984), 389-418
    • Edward M. Coffman, "The New American Military History," Military Affairs, 48 (Jan. 1984), 1-5
    • John Whiteclay Chambers II, "The New Military History: Myth and Reality," Journal of Military History, 55 (July 1991), 395-40
    The public deliberation that I plan to discuss here focuses on the status of the field within the historical profession, and could easily be called the "Why Do They Hate Us So Much?" debate.  It started in the mid-1990s when Mark Grimsley of The Ohio State University, published an essay on his blog that soon became famous: "Why Military History Sucks."  He argued that other historians turned a blind eye to the field of military history because its quality was not particularly good:
    Indeed, I would argue that the best military history is usually done by people who were not trained as military specialists. And the fact that they do do it should suggest not only their interest in military affairs but also the fact that they have to do it—that when they pose a historical question related to military affairs, too often no military historian ever thought of the question before or thought it was worth exploring. We were too busy writing about our subject in a way that did not connect with the concerns of non-military historians.
    Grimsley's argument, though, was one that a lot of other military historians rejected.  For a good example, see: John A. Lynn II, “The Embattled Future of Academic Military History,” Journal of Military History, 61 (October 1997), 777-789.

    There things might have stood—a debate fought on the pages of academic journals and a specialized blog with a very small audience—had it not been for Stephen E. Ambrose.  I have written about Ambrose and his many professional shortcomings, but one of the cooler things he decided to do was donate a big chunk of change to the University of Wisconsin to create an endowed position in military history.  Depending on your view, one of two things happened: 1) Ambrose did not provide quite enough money to fund a chair and Wisconsin had to use its own funds and investment revenues to cover the hidden costs of a faculty position (pension contributions, health care costs, etc.), or 2) the faculty in the department rebelled and simply refused to fill the position.

    John J. Miller, the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College, took the later view.  He wrote an article in the National Review"Sounding Taps: Why Military History is Being Retired."  He savaged the Wisconsin history department's refusal to fill the Ambrose professorship.  Miller's take was dire, as his title suggests, and he contended that the leadership of the historical professional was marginalizing the field:
    Military historians who try for a more conventional career, however, often confront the academic equivalent of urban warfare, with snipers behind every window and ambushes around every corner. “You shouldn’t go into this field unless you really love the work,” warns [Dennis] Showalter [of Colorado College]. “And you have to be ready, like Booker T. Washington, to cast down your bucket where you are.” Many talented scholars wind up taking positions at second-rate institutions because they don’t have other options.
    This article got a good deal of attention, which is a bit of an understatement.  It got reposted on the blog of the historical society: Randall J. Stephens, "Which History?" The Historical Society Blog.  Other commentary followed and there was an exchange about it on the H-Net discussion group dedicated to military history: H-War.  

    At this point, Mark Grimsley entered the debate again.  He pushed back on Miller's attack on both his blog and the History News Network.  The two had an e-mail exchange, which they both made public, and came into agreement on the fact that Wisconsin had an obligation to fill the position, but disagreed on why the university had failed at that point to do so.  "Yours are crocodile tears. You'd love to see us disappear, because it would make a nice talking point in the increasingly stupid culture wars."

    Victor Davis Hanson joined in the fight with an article, “Why Study War?” that was published in City Journal  (Summer 2007), the quarterly of the Manhattan Institute.  A historian of ancient Greece and Rome, he was a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  His take was similar to Miller's: “The academic neglect of war is even more acute today.  Military history as a discipline has atrophied, with very few professorships, journal articles, or degree programs.”

    Editorial Note: click here to read part 2, part 3, and part 4.

    Thursday, March 9, 2017

    Blog CCXXVII (227) More of the Logevall and Osgood Debate

    There has been more on the debate that Fredrik Logevall and Kenneth Osgood started last August on the pages of The New York Times.  I suspect this debate will go on for quite a while and will probably be best measured in months and years rather than weeks and months. 

    Some of what follows is stuff that I should have gotten in my first posting on this debate and some of it is fairly new.  There will, of course, be more.

    James M. Perry, the former chief political correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, endorsed these views in a column he wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  He attributed a lack of political literacy to the rise of Donald Trump.

    In September, K.C. Johnson, one of the very, very few historians that specializes on the Congress, wrote an essay "The Alarming Decline of U.S. Political History" on his blog and also posted on his twitter feed endorsing the views of Logevall and Osgood.  He made similar points in 2003 when he testified to Congress.  His essays is much like Blog CCXXII, but is better in its argumentation.  He also noted some of the same patterns in the negative reactions to the editorial.  He is a bit skeptical that anything will come of the Logevall/Osgood essay, though. 

    At the most recent meeting of the American Historical Association, a session was devoted to debating the state of political history.  The fact that it occurred Sunday morning, when many people are heading to the airport or raiding the book display for the good deals, limited the turnout.  (I know of what I speak; I have been in an AHA session on Sunday morning.  There were a few more people in the audience than on the panel, but only a few.)

    Getting more attention is a exchange of essays in the January 2017 issue of Perspectives on History.  Marc Stein, a historian at San Francisco State, published "Political History and the History of Sexuality." Stein, who writes on sexuality, decided to criticize the essay from the perspective of his specialization. "Here I want to offer a perspective rooted in my little corner of the world, which is filled with historians of sexuality who work on politics and historians of politics who work on sexuality."  He began the essay by complaining about the language that the two used.  "More problematic, from the perspective of my little corner of the world, was the fact that their formulation erased the work so many have done to integrate political history with the history of social movements and the history of race, gender, and sexuality."  He began by listing the books on his shelves that were political history.  Like many other critics, he confused political history with other topics.  I noticed one book was about strategic bombing in World War II.  He then discussed the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which excluded, in the words of the act, "sexual deviations."  Stein observes, "But in my little corner of the world, which includes a large number of US political historians, this law was also a political manifestation of larger dynamics that established, maintained, and strengthened the supremacy of family, heterosexuality, and marriage in the United States. And if we cannot recognize that this is and was political, the future of political history is dire indeed."

    Logevall and Osgood responded with a lengthy essay—which is in fact, longer than their original New York Times piece—entitled: "US Political History—Alive and Well?"  The two note: "Reasonable people can differ here, and Marc Stein is more apropos than perhaps he realizes with his repeated references to the view from his 'little corner of the world.' The challenge for us all is to take a broader perspective, to take stock of the good and the bad, and to have an open dialogue about the state of the field as seen from all points on the compass, not just our own."

    They are clear on who and what political history should be studying: "Those who have held predominant power in American society—presidents, Congress, state governments—the elections that brought them to office, and the formulation and impact of policies that resulted from the exercise of that power." There reasons are fairly simple.  "In our daily lives, we take for granted the importance of these manifestations of our politics, but—as several correspondents rightly noted—too often we lose sight of it in our research, at least pre-tenure, and in our decision making on matters of curriculum design and faculty hiring."

    A number of people have contacted them to either express support or disagreement.  Many have argued there is little academic history on both Congress and state government. "We agree. To a large degree, we’ve ceded this territory to our colleagues in political science. For the past quarter century, history grad students who express an interest in pursuing a dissertation centered on high politics have usually been gently steered in other directions. It’s old-fashioned and elite-centered, they’ve been told, not sufficiently cutting edge, too—egad—'traditional.' And 'it won’t get you a job.'" 

    That point is exceptionally important.  After having been part of a couple of search committees, I can tell you that a  dissertation topic can play a powerful role in determining who advances in the search.  Letters of recommendation help, sure, but the dissertation topic is far more important.  In the end, Logevall and Osgood candidly observe that "the savvy grad student who wants to maximize her chances on the job market would still be well-advised to steer clear of a topic on high politics."

    Stein responded with an essay that was longer and more insightful than his original piece.  He noted, "Self-proclaimed guardians of political history have regularly issued jeremiads about the decline of our field." He is direct in his criticisms of Logevall and Osgood on this matter: "One clue about why they do so can be found in their discussion of my 'little corner of the world.' Apparently, they missed my sarcasm; my point was that my corner is actually pretty popular. Instead, they urge us to 'take a broader perspective' and examine 'all points on the compass, not just our own.' I couldn’t agree more." 

    He then argues that historians writing history in his field are doing impressive work: "Sarcasm alert: I sure do wish that political historians who focus on class, gender, race, and sexuality would stop looking at things from provincial and parochial points of view and focus on larger political issues like capitalism, colonialism, democracy, equality, justice, war, and peace. As for their efforts to provide further evidence for the decline of political history, I am not convinced that their research methodology is up to the task, primarily because of the questions they are not asking."

    Stein's essay becomes quite powerful when he starts asking some significant questions: "First, do most US history textbooks and survey courses still privilege political history? If so, what is the relationship between this and the patterns that Logevall and Osgood have identified in history specializations and job advertisements?"

    He get at a really important issue in his next point: "Second, how do we measure the changing popularity of political history."  He notes that the boundaries between topic such as "diplomatic, legal, and military history" are nebulous.  That point is particularly strong, but I would argue that the boundaries are clearer to people in the fields than those outside of them.

    His next two points are interesting: "Third, is it possible that more and more dissertations integrate political history with other approaches? Has there been a generational shift whereby new historians are less invested in older field designations?" He follows with: "Fourth, while quantitative studies of job advertisements are interesting, is it possible that political historians are favored in job searches that do not mention politics (such as searches in US history, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and chronologically defined subfields)?" 

    Stein's last point is perhaps his best, "All of this begs the question of how we should define “the political.” It is sometimes said that if everything is political, the concept of politics as a distinct conceptual domain loses its utility. But surely we can come up with a definition that encompasses less than everything but more than national elections, political parties, and a small set of individuals and institutions."

    My response: that is a reasonable question.  My assessment based on anecdotal evidence is a simple: no.

    Political history has serious issues to discuss that other fields are going to have a difficult time addressing.  These include questions like:
    • Why does the United States have a binary political system when most other industrial, democratic societies are multi-party?
    • Has the United States had a radical element in its political tradition? On the right?  The left?  Why? Why not?
    • Has Congress been an active force in national politics? Or is it more passive,  responding to special interest groups and the executive branch?  Does Congress initiate significant policy proposals, and national agendas?
    • Do people vote on the basis of issues?  Partisanship?  Or image/emotion?
    I am sure someone could come up with even more, but these are kind of big.

    This point gets to another that I notice when I was writing Blog CCXXII (my first assessment of the Logevall and Osgood debate).  There appears to be a lot of bait and switching going on among the critics of Logevall and Osgood.  Historians often try to pass off one type of history as another particularly in job searches when they are having to fill a position in a field that they do not like.  (You also see this phenomenon in fellowship applications).  Put another way, if a political historian wrote a biography of Margret Chase Smith—she spent nine years in the U.S. House of Representatives and then was a U.S. Senator from Maine for four terms—would that individual be a viable candidate for a job teaching women's history?  Probably not, but a lot of people think that if that historian specialized in gender studies and wrote the biography that he or she could pass them self off as a political historian. 

    Friday, January 27, 2017

    Blog CCXXVII (227): Debate Prequel

    This post is one that I really wish I had written before Blog CCXXII (222): The Logevall and Osgood Debate.  In May of 2011, Perspectives on History had a special issue on political history "Political History Today."  There were seventeen articles that studied various aspects of the topic.  In many ways, this special issue was a prequel to the Logevall/Osgood guest column in The New York Times last August. 

    The articles are eclectic.  Three articles are about teaching, and another three are about research resources available to historians interested in U.S. political history.  Although it is clear the intention of the editors was to focus on U.S. political history, there are essays on South Asia and Early Modern Europe. 

    May 2011The more important articles in this issue are those that are "think pieces" on the direction of the field.  Of these the one that is probably the most important is the one from Julian E. Zelizer of Princeton University.  His article "The Interdisciplinarity of Political History" is a condensed version of the first part of his book Governing America: The Revival of Political History (2012).  Political history is seeing a Renaissance, he argues, because it has become interdisciplinary.  Historians
    must be certain to explore the full range of scholarship that exists outside history departments to see and profit from all the possible partnerships. For example, in political science there are subfields like public opinion that have important findings for political historians, such as the difficulty presidents have encountered in actually changing public opinion. Larry Bartels has produced some intriguing findings using historical data to show that what matters most to voters—even in landmark elections like those of 1936—are the immediate economic conditions, which determine what happens at the ballot box. His work has also raised significant challenges to conventional history that we have on how working class whites abandoned the Democratic Party after the 1960s. Psychologists are producing stunning findings about how voters make their decisions based on first physical impressions rather than speeches or policy arguments. Sociologists have also been developing extremely important work on the role of networks in spreading information and shaping the reputations of particular actors. 
    The good news is that an interdisciplinary approach is in the bloodstream of any good political historian.
    On the other hand, Steven Pincus of Yale University and William Novak of the University of Michigan in "Political History after the Cultural Turn" state: "Traditional political history is dead and is still dying. Over two decades ago, Lynn Hunt observed, 'Social history has overtaken political history as the most important area of research in history.'" They also add:
    Practitioners of both the new social history and the new cultural history have been at one in denouncing (and moving speedily past) the traditional techniques, narratives, and perspectives of the old political history. Tony Judt, certainly not an uncritical advocate of either the new social or the new cultural history, captured a widespread contempt for political history after the social-cultural turn. "Traditional political history continues on its untroubled way," he observed, "describing in detail the behaviour of ruling classes and the transformations which took place within them. Divorced from social history, this remains, as ever, a form of historical writing adapted to the preservation of the status quo; it concerns itself with activities peculiar to the ruling group, activities of an apparently rational and self-justifying nature." Whatever their internecine differences, practitioners of most new historical subdisciplines have come to view traditional political history as an essentially conservative and crabbed way of approaching an increasingly rich and diverse range of historical material.
    All of this comes in the first paragraph. 

    Pincus and Novak are not dismissing the study of public affairs.  "Recent events have made the importance of 'the political' even more manifest," they concede. "Post 9/11, no one can seriously doubt any longer that state activities—domestic as well as international—deeply affect our everyday lives."  They also issue a call for action:
    What we are calling for, then, is not a return to a political history of elites making decisions which affect other elites. The last generation of social and cultural history has successfully cut off the king's head, and the future history of the political refuses to be confined to the conventional terms of critical elections, high-profile politicians, and official action. The political history that we would like to see elevated in the next generation of historical scholarship is precisely a place of constant interaction and interconnection between state and society—a space where issues of national identity and belonging, democratic participation and exclusion, state-building and state-resistance, discrimination and equal protection, and competing visions of the good life are ceaselessly brought into focus, debate, and often coercive resolution. The political does not constitute itself independent of and external to society—but is a place of almost continuous sociopolitical interaction and conflict. It marks a distinctive site of collective action where the terms of the life in common—whether local, regional, national, or international—receive a particularly comprehensive (and not infrequently coercive) form of articulation (for better or for worse).   
    That is all well and good, but—and this is a big but—state activities are not always political.  Pincus and Novak conflate law enforcement, military affairs and foreign policy with politics.  There is overlap, but they are distinct topics.  I also think there is an odd disconnect at play here in the dismissive attitude they hold towards historical investigation of high ranking politicians and elections, and the reactions in academia to the elections of 2008 and 2016.  Scholars seem to care about who is in the White House—at least those during their lifetimes.

    Part of the problem with this debate is that many people are confused about what is and is not "political history." This reaction was clear in the early, negative reactions to the Logevall/Osgood  op-ed.  It also becomes clear in reading all the articles in this special issue. 

    Case in point, four of the articles in this issue, focus on diplomatic history.  While diplomatic history and political history might seem the same thing to people outside of the two fields, they are distinctly different. Diplomatic history has a been a well-defined sub-field of U.S. history for roughly a century, focusing on the making and execution of policy, or to be more specific, U.S. foreign policy.  Although politicians play important roles in these studies—54 of our 66 secretaries of state have been lawyers/politicians.  Many people outside of the field assume diplomatic history is limited to the activities of how diplomats talk to one another.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Diplomatic historians often focus on professional diplomats, but they also look at pressure groups, businessmen, demographics, economics, and public opinion.  They have also been "internationalizing" U.S. history for a very, very long time. 

    All of these points become clear in looking at the career of Samuel Flagg Bemis (1891-1973).  Bemis was president of the American Historical Association in 1961.  He won his first Pulitzer for his book Jay's Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy (1924), which was the product of research in archives in the United States, but also those in the United Kingdom and France—which was no easy thing to do in 1916; his ship was hit by a German U-boat. More to the point, his book and research makes it clear that politics and policy are distinctly different topics.  There is no real reason for a political historian to look at developments in France or Britain, while there is a very strong reason for a diplomatic historian to do so. 

    Bemis's career also shows how diplomatic and political history overlap.  He won his second Pulitzer for the first volume of his biography of John Quincy Adams.  That book focused on Adams and his diplomatic career.  The sequel covered his presidency and post-White House life as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Returning to the main topic of this essay, this special issue makes for interesting reading in light of the Logevall/Osgood debate.  These articles show, for better or worse, what they two of them were pushing against when the went to The New York Times with their essay.  In many ways the issue helps their cause.  If you disagree with that assessment, despair not.  I suspect there is a lot more coming in this debate.

    Friday, January 13, 2017

    Blog CCXXVI (226): Blast from the Past

    It is a bit of an odd thing, but historians are basically clueless about the history of their own profession.  In graduate school, we are taught the historiography of our field--the history of the literature--but not the history of the profession.  With that point in mind, I spent some time looking at issues of Perspectives from the time I was an undergraduate and graduate student.  In November of 1989--while I was struggling through my first semester, Richard H. Kohn, the Chief Historian of the United States Air Force, wrote this essay entitled, "The Future of the Historical Profession."  Kohn holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin and is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  All the highlighting is mine, and I will offer a short assessment at the end of the essay:
    During the last few years, a sense of unease has been growing in the historical profession. From many sides come warnings of a profession in decline, part of a larger lament about the state of American learning. From Ernest Boyer, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, we hear of "undergraduate colleges" as "troubled" institutions that "have lost their sense of purpose," peopled by passive students and conflicted faculty, isolated from the schools below them and from the larger world beyond the campus. From critics E. D. Hirsch and Allan Bloom we hear of a university system hopelessly adrift and an educational system so deeply and genuinely flawed that it fails to impart the concepts and information that together constitute a shared culture. Closer to our concerns as historians, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities tells us how neglectful this educational system is of history and literature. This point is confirmed in numbing detail by Diane Ravitch and Chester Finn in a longer work, and more recently, in terms of content and method in the curricula of the schools, by the Bradley Commission—and how arcane and disconnected from society scholarship in the humanities has become. Professors Gertrude Himmelfarb and Theodore Hamerow have focused specifically on how we historians pursue our profession, one arguing that some of our newest passions—particularly social history—are dangerously flawed and incomplete, the other that our field has diminished dramatically in importance and relevance in academe and society at large. All in all, few periods in memory can rival this last two years for the sheer volume and consistency of the attacks on higher education in general and on our discipline in particular.
    Now, while much of this critique may be exaggerated or simply wrong, and while many of us might disagree in whole or in part with some of this literature, we still have a nagging sense that the criticism contains considerable truth. There is much evidence to support the interpretation that history has declined, whatever the reasons. The number of history majors graduating from American colleges dropped precipitously between 1970 and 1986—a whopping 62 percent, from over 43,000 to 16,500. Masters degrees awarded in our field suffered a similar drop, and Ph.D.s almost a 50 percent contraction. What this implies is a loss of audience both in a core clientele and in a prime source of jobs for our profession, college students, and faculty positions. At the same time, people seem to know less history. While we do not have a basis to compare Professors Ravitch's and Finn's work on what our 17-year-olds know with other periods of time, the results just by themselves are troubling to say the least, and the Bradley Commission has only reiterated what we have suspected for some time—a twenty-year trend of less history taught and required in our schools and colleges. Professor Hamerow would argue that history has given way to newer fields in the social sciences that seem to be more practical or useful in addressing today's social issues. But whatever the cause, the result is the same: history has declined dramatically in popularity as a field of knowledge in American education.
    At the same time, however, the interest of the American people in history seems to have moved in exactly the opposite direction. The humanities as a whole have flowered in the same twenty-year period, according to National Endowment Chairman Lynne V. Cheney: greater numbers of people are participating in State Humanities Council's sponsored programs; more library reading programs; there is more spending on admission to cultural events in comparison to spectator sports; there is increased attendance at the National Gallery of Art in Washington; and other evidence, statistical and anecdotal. Cheney points out that there are nearly "10,000 historical this country, more than half of them...organized in the last twenty years." The amount of history on television and on movie screens shows no sign of decline. Hundreds of corporations have apparently undertaken in recent years to have their histories written, either to orient and inspire their own employees; to market their goods and services; or as necessary to provide context and support for planning and decision-making at the topmost management levels.
    In the realm of fiction, the American public's appetite for historical novels from such authors as James Michener, Gore Vidal, and John Jakes seems insatiable. The topic of World War II, whether in the form of novels, memoirs, battle and campaign histories, biographies, or budget-busting television extravaganzas like War and Remembrance has become something of a cottage industry all its own.
    Interest in historical museums and reconstructions and the preservation of historic buildings and sites has skyrocketed. Beginning in 1966, under the stimulation of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, over 50,000 places have come to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    Public history—the related activities of archives, cultural resource management, and policy analysis or support in government and business—has also emerged in the last decade to become a major source of employment for historians, archaeologists, archivists, and others.
    The decline—the crisis—does not seem to reside in the discipline or in the demand for, and interest in, the study of the past but in the profession itself. The fundamental problem lies in ourselves, in the way we conceive our role and the way we orient our professional interest and activity; specifically our narrowness and specialization. Our narrowness comes in many forms; it pervades not only what we do, but how we do it, and how we identify ourselves and our role in society. We define ourselves by the Ph.D. and while we recognize that there are historians doing legitimate work who do not possess the degree, and that there are historians doing quality work in government, business, cultural institutions, and elsewhere, when we speak of "the profession" we really mean the professoriate. Even then it is restricted to people with Ph.D.s teaching in four-year, postsecondary institutions. We define ourselves not as a body of individuals with common training and expertise, devoted corporately to a common purpose, but as a field of knowledge or a subject matter.
    Our work has grown increasingly narrow in scope and technical in character, written to advance knowledge in small segments and addressed to other scholars rather than to a broad audience. Most of our work is so technical that it is even unsuitable for assignment to our own undergraduates. Our graduate training which focuses on original research, rigor of method, and the dissertation rather than on training, has become the standard by which we judge not simply the quality but the worth, or usefulness, of almost all historical writing.
    Our reward structure is based almost exclusively on such writing; our very concept of productivity is writing. We have as a profession come to see our purpose as adding new knowledge to the base, rather than advancing an understanding of the past in society. We have come to confuse our product with our purpose. Certainly, we have forfeited the public audience for our writing to those writers and journalists who are skilled at repackaging the scholarship of others into broad syntheses, readable narratives, or exciting biographies. In short, we have succeeded in largely divorcing ourselves and professionally-done history from the public, both in the schools and in the general population at large.
    Now, I do not want to overstate our crisis or draw a completely negative picture, for there are hopeful signs amidst these problems. The attention paid to the decline of history in the schools is itself a positive development and between the efforts of the NEH, the Bradley Commission, and the National Commission on Social Studies, there seems to be gathering a wave of reform. In 1987, the California State Board of Education revised its "history framework" to emphasize and increase history and geography (instead of "social studies") and late last year the The Atlantic Monthly magazine sensed enough interest in the subject to devote a long article to a critique of our high school history texts. At the college level, the number of majors and graduate degrees awarded seems to have bottomed, and on some campuses students seem to be coming back to history. At the University of New Mexico, to cite one example, history enrollments have undergone a dramatic increase. Public history seems steadily to be expanding its clientele, with government agencies opening new history offices, more businesses contracting for histories or establishing archives, historic preservation continuing to boom, and a general sense in the public prints that history possesses practical usefulness not only as a tool for transmitting culture and informing decision-makers, but as a virtual necessity of citizenship in a democracy and, in inchoate ways, a fundamental measure of our health as a civilization. Even in the Soviet Union, where history has long been abused as a tool of propaganda and control, there seems to be a recognition that an honest rendering of the past must accompany glasnost and perestroyka if those progressive initiatives are to have any lasting effect and the Soviet Union as a nation and society is to modernize.
    But whatever the signs, our narrowness remains an obstacle. The issue is whether professional historians can or will respond to the interest of our citizenry in the past and the demand for more and better history in the schools. The consequences of failure are immense. If we do not reconnect the profession to the schools, the reading public, and the diverse historical activity that has burgeoned in our communities, we run the risk of being further displaced by amateur history buffs and other social scientists, with the result that the history Americans receive will be inaccurate, misleading, politically-biased, or useful only for civic celebration or mass entertainment. Most corporate histories, for example, are authored by writers or company insiders rather than by professionals rigorously trained in historical method and committed to our standards of veracity, balance, objectivity, and interpretation.
    Extraordinary sums of money are devoted in America today to primary and secondary education, to television and to movies, to museums, to historic reconstruction, and to decision-making in business and government. Should not these enterprises have history every bit as professionally sound as the instruction our college students receive and our research monographs contain? The audiences to be reached far outnumber those in our classrooms and those who read our monographs. If we are shrewd about it and attempt to mold our own future instead of experiencing it passively, we have the opportunity to improve our nation and advance our society far in excess of present efforts. If we as a profession want more and better historical understanding of the United States, we had better take the steps necessary to make that occur ourselves.
    Our first task is to reconnect the profession with our clientele in the educational world and amongst the public—those reading books and imbibing history from media, museums, and local and regional historical organizations across the country. 
    Historians in our colleges ought to get involved more in film and television production, with museums, as consultants to historic preservation, in school curriculum planning, and in writing sound, interpretative works in a style and on topics that the public wants to read. None of this requires prostitution of our standards or values. Quite the opposite; it is precisely to spread our standards of balanced, accurate history that such initiatives are needed. 
    One effort needed at the local level is for academic historians to take the lead in connecting together primary and secondary school history instructors with the historic sites and organizations nearby. History can be more lively if it is interactive and relevant to everyday life, if it can be seen and touched as well as read. In What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know, Professors Ravitch and Finn point out that of their sample of 7,812 high school juniors, fully 93 percent never visited museums or exhibits with their history classes and 44.5 percent never used documents or other original sources. But 84.2 percent watched films or listened to oral histories, one-third of them once a week! Almost 60 percent used a history textbook daily! Why could not historians at colleges publish through the medium of history texts, lesson materials, videos, and films? Why could not history departments connect school teachers and curricula designers with the curators of local museums, the administrators of historic sites and buildings, local individuals who have relevant oral history experiences to relate, and archivists with documents that could be used to create innovative units and lessons to supplement traditional classroom methods?
    If we want to influence history we must assert our leadership and make the first effort, for it is we who have defined ourselves as "the profession." It is we who differentiate ourselves from others who teach below the college level; who do not possess the Ph.D.; or who cannot or do not choose to study or disseminate history within the framework similar to that of the university professoriate. Until we reach out, the other groups will continue to ignore us.
    Our second task must consist of a concerted effort to broaden the economic base of the profession beyond college and university teaching. The rise of public or applied history—its expansion in business and government—indicates there may be a market for history beyond the classroom and publishing. Mostly we historians see ourselves as teachers or writers, iconoclastic individualists even though most work as salaried employees of large institutions. However, an enterprising few, exercising imagination and inventiveness, have managed to make a living selling historical service to the public. Perhaps history could break out of its academic mold and, like psychology and economics some decades ago, develop a client or customer base for individual or group practitioners. The only way to find this out is to undertake a detailed and systematic market analysis of the American economy to see if significant numbers of historians could make a living in such a manner. As former chairman of the National Council for Public History Neil Stowe has put it, "We are not, after all, a growth industry, but we have growth opportunities."
    Historian Shelley Bookspan, writing in the February 1989 OAH Newsletter, has noted a tremendous opportunity open to historians created by recent environmental legislation, which has caused there to be "site assessments" on virtually "all property transactions." Courts use history often; perhaps historians could be employed full-time or on a fee basis to give our judges and lawyers professional history. Newspapers employ art, film, TV, architecture, and theater critics. Perhaps media could be induced to employ historians to review the history content not only of art, film, and books, but of the use of history by politicians running for office. Bookspan believes the OAH ought immediately to establish a marketing committee, but that is only a first step and it ought to be underwritten by all of our professional groups or by the AHA acting for all. The possibilities are only limited by what is economically viable and by our imaginations. 
    Such a future requires significant change in the way we define the profession; how we train historians; how we see our role in society; and how we organize and operate our professional organizations.
    To begin with, we must define the profession inclusively rather than exclusively, to include everyone who makes their living researching, writing, teaching, or otherwise advancing or disseminating historical knowledge regardless of their place of employment or source of income. At the same time that we reach out, we ought to work as hard as possible to insure that all of these practitioners, where at all appropriate, have at least college, and quite likely, graduate education in history. Such a step may well require us to insist on certification, as a way of protecting the public against biased, inaccurate, or otherwise shoddy work.
    Our present system—essentially footnotes and peer review—is utterly inadequate to cover historical work in museums where history is not presented in written formats and in the media or in government and business where the results of research are not usually disseminated very widely. Nor have we any adequate procedures, as recent cases of alleged plagiarism or other unethical behavior reveal, to identify malfeasance and enforce sanctions against professional malpractice.
    Certification or licensing will be difficult to establish and will undoubtedly elicit charges of elitism. But a test of basic field knowledge; of writing competency; of familiarity with research techniques and methodologies and other expertise we take for granted (but which many amateurs and publicly-accepted practitioners lack or ignore) may be more just, fair, equitable, and democratic—and less elitist, exclusive, and restrictive—than requiring a Ph.D. By not acting to enforce standards or to require a level of education or expertise, the historical profession tells the public that quality history is not important and that the analysis of the past is not a profession which requires special training, knowledge, expertise, or method.
    A broadening of our role will also require a change in the training of graduate students along with the reward structure in colleges, universities, and the profession generally. If we are to engage the schools and extend our activity in American life, we are going to have to recognize the disseminating of history on an equal basis with the creation of new historical knowledge. In other words, a concerted effort will be needed to alter the "culture" of the profession, to make respectable and even desirable the practice of history beyond the classroom as a service activity for individual profit and social betterment. Graduate students will thus need training not just in historiography, a chronological or national specialty, and research, but in "applying" history in a wide variety of settings with a diverse set of methodologies. Masters and doctoral programs need to introduce students to the profession as well as the discipline, with one or more courses in applied history that teach the use, uses, and practice of history in all its diversity in American society.
    In short, we must both prepare our successors and encourage many of them to pursue history as a service or product activity. Whether we modify the Ph.D. substantially remains to be seen, but certainly the period of timing will need to be regularized and made more standard. And colleges and universities will have to develop ways of measuring and recognizing excellence and productivity that will reward faculty for advancing historical knowledge and understanding in ways other than classroom teaching and archival research.
    Lastly, if the profession decides to break out of its isolation and broaden beyond its academic base, our professional groups, particularly the AHA, will have to provide leadership. In almost every instance, our organizations were founded and continue to operate as associations of scholars—oriented primarily toward original investigation of sources, issuing research reports, publishing scholarly journals, meeting annually to share the results of specialized research, awarding prizes for the publication of archival discoveries, devoting attention to access to archives and issues of academic publishing, and other such activities for college teachers who have the time, support, and inclination for research and publication. Only a handful of our organizations make any effort to include history activity beyond the academy, and even those have hardly made a dent in becoming attractive to, serving, or including teachers in schools and community colleges, much less colleagues in other work settings. There is no program underway to establish criteria for competence in our discipline or to enforce professional standards of education, entry, or practice for the various work settings in which historians are employed. Our entire profession possesses but one full-time lobbyist. Efforts at the state and local level, in school curricula battles, textbook publishing and selection, historic preservation, and other issues outside postsecondary education are haphazard and inconsistent at best. Membership drives focus on academicians, not a wider clientele. Little thought or effort is being made to study the economics of a client-base rather than a classroom- or salary-based profession. Our organizations are not engaged in any systematic efforts to promote the utility or image of the discipline in such a manner that will broaden our role in American life or our opportunities for employment, with the exception of a recent push to strengthen and advance precollege history education.
    When all is said and done, our organizations are not as much professional associations as they are learned societies, pursuing overwhelmingly the same programs and activities as did their predecessors at the turn of the century. The difference, as Leonard D. Goodstein of the American Psychological Association recently explained, is that professional organizations "actively intervene in the development of the discipline and work to advance and protect the interests of the discipline in any and all arenas."
    Our profession stands today at a critical juncture. For generations, in order to achieve rigor and increase knowledge of the past, we have narrowed ourselves, to the detriment of advancing historical study as widely in American society as possible. Other alternatives exist, and the present loud complaints about the state of the profession and state of historical learning in America present us with an unusual opportunity to reevaluate ourselves, and if we wish, to extend our influence and strengthen our effectiveness. But we must seize control of our own future in order to do so. Roughly, the choice is between developing a broader base and expanded role in society, like the psychologists and economists, or continuing to talk primarily to ourselves within the confines of the academic world, like the philosophers. In either case, we ought to confront the choices openly, and debate them. It is after all our own future that is at stake, and perhaps more important, the quality of historical understanding in the United States as a whole.
    My assessment: this article was in many ways a bold call for action.  For better or worse--probably worse--it still describes the historical profession in 2017 as much as it did 28 years ago in 1989.  It is clear that the historians of the 1990s failed to innovate.  Most probably saw little need.  There were studies predicting a shortage of faculty, as a generation of baby boomers hit retirement.  As a result, graduate schools exploded in size, admitting dozens and dozens of students.  The problem was the baby boomers did not boom and the numbers of undergraduates were simply not there to require one to one replacement of faculty.  As a result, the situation the profession faces is actually far worse today than it was in the days of the first President Bush.  Makes me wonder about the future.  Where will things be in 2038?