Phi Beta Cons

After Action Report #3

One of the signers of this letter is Mark Grimsley, my sparring partner.

Here at The Ohio State University, we are intrigued by John J. Miller’s September 26 column “Sounding Taps” over the field of military history. We appreciate the concern but, to paraphrase the fellow in the “Bring Out Your Dead” sequence of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “We’re not dead yet.”
Nor do we seem to be dying. In fact, we are thriving, thanks to the support that our military history program enjoys within the history department, the presence on campus of the interdisciplinary Mershon Center for International Security Studies, and the generosity of outside donors.
We presently have three military historians — Mark Grimsley, John F. Guilmartin, Jr., and Geoffrey Parker — and one diplomatic-military historian, Jennifer Siegel. Between us we have published 51 books and 227 book chapters, essays, and articles. Much of this output is intended principally for scholarly audiences. The be! st university presses have published our books and many of our articles have appeared in refereed journals that span the entire historical field, including the American Historical Review in the United States and Past & Present in Great Britain. But a significant portion of our books and articles are written for the general reader and reflect our engagement with a wider public.
Between us we have garnered five national book prizes, four national grants and fellowships, four memberships in national academies, and four awards for teaching excellence. Two of us have military backgrounds; one is a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War.
We are fully engaged in the life of our department. One of us currently chairs the Promotion and Tenure Committee, another chairs the Undergraduate Studies Committee, while a third has chaired the Diversity Committee, which he also helped to create.
Plans are underway this year to replace our recently retired seni! or American military historian, Allan R. Millett, with a disti! nguished new senior historian, thanks to the creation of a fully funded endowed chair in American Military History, made possible through the generosity of retired Gen. Raymond E. Mason. Throughout his career, Professor Millett steadfastly maintained that military historians should possess the broadest possible knowledge of general history, and should avoid being, in essence, military analysts who employed history on a narrowly selective basis. We heartily endorse that conviction.
Over the next five years, we will be running a search to fill a second endowed chair in military history, thanks once again to the generosity of a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. This is a brand new additional position.
We also have several colleagues who, although they may not self-identify as military historians, work on topics that intersect with the military dimension of human affairs. Examples include Nathan Rosenstein, who teaches (to rave reviews) a challenging course on war ! in the ancient Mediterranean world; and Ahmad Sikainga, who has written and taught extensively on the Sudanese Civil War.
Our military history graduate program currently includes over thirty students, including both “civilians” (some of them graduates from Yale and Princeton), intent upon a career in the academy, and also active duty officers sent here to prepare them to teach military history at the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Military Academies. Over the years we have trained over one hundred PhDs who now hold jobs in the service academies, research institutions, colleges and universities across the United States.
In short, no one need blow “Taps” over our graves, because they are far from dug. “Reveille” would be more apt, because a new day is dawning. The military program ably created in the 1970s by Allan R. Millett and Williamson Murray is now moving confidently into the twenty-first century.
Indeed, we think that our situation ! at Ohio State more nearly reflects the health of the field tha! n does t he University of Wisconsin’s delay in filling the Ambrose-Hesseltine Chair. As the article mentions, there are indeed a number of strong military history programs at Texas A&M and Kansas State, but also Hawaii Pacific University (which the article touches upon only in passing); and Duke University and the University of North Carolina, which it completely overlooks.
The lapse is particularly telling in the case of the joint Duke-UNC program. The article says that where military history “isn’t dead and buried, it’s either dying or under siege.” In fact, the military history program at Duke, which has a good claim to being the oldest in the United States, was all but dead when Duke and UNC combined to revitalize it. It is now one of the strongest in the country, with six full-time military historians and ten affiliated faculty.
Some in academia may view military history with jaundiced eye, just as some others may feel impatient with women’s history or fr! ustrated at the shortage of faculty positions to cover adequately the non-Western regions of the world. And it must also be acknowledged, candidly, that military historians have not always been good ambassadors for their field. But in our view the situation is nowhere near as bleak as John J. Miller’s article portrays — not at OSU and not in this country.
Mark Grimsley, Associate Professor of History

John F. Guilmartin, Jr., Professor of History

Geoffrey Parker, Andreas Dorpalen Professor of History

Jennifer Siegel, Assistant Professor of History

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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