Let’s See If We Can Slip One Past The Readers…

by Brett Schulte on May 27, 2008 · 2 comments

I was amused to see Dimitri asking the question,

Why on earth would you include an essay on “Lost Cause” historiography in a collection called Battle: The Nature and Consequences of Civil War Combat?

I agree. I see several problems with this one. First, could it be because some academic circles (note I said SOME) don’t believe military history is important on its own? I should point out that Alan T. Nolan is the author of the essay in question. I want to make clear that I enjoy his work and this is not an attack on Mr. Nolan or his work, much of which I’ve read and enjoyed.

The second issue, somewhat related, involves the revealing publisher’s blurb:

Romanticism is as rife in Civil War history as any other and may produce more than its share of drums and trumpets writing that glosses over the fear, pain, and death that are inevitable components of all warfare.

Apparently campaign and battle studies which don’t touch on race, class, or gender “gloss over the fear, pain, and death” of the common soldier, treating them like pawns on a chessboard.

As a reader who enjoys military history, I don’t particularly enjoy insinuations about its (lack of) importance, to academia or to the general reading public. When will the social history overcorrection of the past 15-20 years reverse course? Hopefully sooner rather than later. I’ll have more on this in the near future as this post ties in nicely with something I’ve been putting together.

With all of this said, I am in no way commenting on the quality of the book, and I’m sure I’ll be buying a copy for myself.  The lineup of authors doing these essays looks very solid.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

jmnlman May 27, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Unfortunately this sort of thing is quite common in some academic settings. It’s usually called “new military history” or “war and society” I had one old school professor joke that it tended to be the study of Camp Followers. After spending a semester reading up on it I have to say he isn’t far off the mark.


Fred Ray May 28, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Many of today’s historians are really social theorists who see history as a backdrop for moral fables.


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