Blogs > Cliopatria > John J. Miller Strikes Back!

Sep 29, 2006 1:15 am


John J. Miller Strikes Back!



Cross-posted from Blog Them Out of the Stone Age

John J. Miller of National Review Online was kind enough to email me a heads up that he's not taking my barrage of posts lying down. He gives me plenty of what-for on the Phi Beta Cons page of National Review Online. The page is subtitled,"The Right Take on Higher Ed." I'll give him a paragraph's head start, then let you jump to the page itself:

Well, my article on the decline of military history as an academic field has at least one professor all atwitter. Mark Grimsley of Ohio State is so flustered by it that I'm having trouble keeping track of his attacks on the theme of the article, the quality of my reporting, and my personal integrity — but the main one seems to be this, followed by this, this, and this. I guess he really takes the whole"publish or perish" thing to heart.

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Stephan Xavier Reich - 11/25/2006

"many of the military historians Miller idolizes also self-identify as social historians"

Many? Or one?

Moreover, there are no endowed chairs for women's history at most universities, yet somehow colleges manage to find the resources to hire one (or seventeen, as is the case at Madison!). Yet, even with a million dollars (I know, that's chicken-feed) head start, no one at UW seems to want one. Sound like decent points to me!


Stephan Xavier Reich - 11/25/2006

So Mark won't stoop to address the substance of my posts, but he will call me every name in the book (and accuse me innumeracy!) But where did I attack him personally?


Stephan Xavier Reich - 11/25/2006

Not 17, but not three either, I actually count 7--and two more to be hired this year.

1.Boydston, Jeanne Specialization: Women's
2.Cheng, Cindy I-Fen Specialization: Asian American History and Culture; Cold War Culture; Comparative Racial Formations; Gender; Sexuality; Nationality
3.Enstad, Nan Area: US Women's
4. Johnson, Susan Specialization: Western/borderlands; gender; sexuality
5. Kantrowitz, Stephen Specialization: 19th c. U.S.; South; race; gender; politics
6. Mallon, Florencia Specialization: Modern Latin America; gender,
7. Roberts, Mary Lou Specialization: Women and Gender; France


Stephan Xavier Reich - 11/25/2006

I'll give you Kantrowitz--so I'm down to six plus two (eight, presumably next Fall).
Who else on that list do you challenge?


Stephan Xavier Reich - 11/25/2006

Yes. It's pretty much that case that historians of gender specialize in women's history, usually from a (semi) feminist perspective. Kantorowitz is an exception, but are the others?


Stephan Xavier Reich - 11/25/2006

I'm thinking back to my grad school days at SUNY Stony Brook when the women's studies faculty quashed a move to change the program's title to Studies in Gender because, some argued "then we'd be presured to hire a man"!


Stephan Xavier Reich - 11/25/2006

"He gives me plenty of what-for"

Well-admitted. I think "wipes the floor with my specious, ad-hominem argument" would be closer.


Stephan Xavier Reich - 11/25/2006

Specious is when something is false although superficially true.
ad hominem is when you attack the person or person's motivations rather than engage the argument.
Wiping the floor, well, that I'll give you. But Grimsley does look a bit silly after Miller response.


Alan Allport - 9/30/2006

Yes. It's pretty much that case that historians of gender specialize in women's history.

My dissertation is exclusively about servicemen, and yet has large sections devoted to problems of gender. I'm hardly unique in this.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/30/2006

Well, no. You really can't generalize the way you do about the meaning of "gender". It simply signals one set of polarities or multivarities that interest a historian. It could be war and peace. It could be black and white. It could be European and American. It could be church and state. It simply encompasses the two or the many in a single word and does not necessarily imply a point of view. You assumed that it does. That assumption would be false.


Mark Grimsley - 9/30/2006

Good question. Yes, there are. Rather than just rattle off a list of names, it may be more illuminating to supply the names of historians and their books.

To give just a few instances: E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood : Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era (1993); Michael C. C. Adams, The Great Adventure: Male Desire and the Coming of the First World War (1990); Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood : How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (1998); and Gail Bederman, Manliness & Civilization : A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (1995).

The late Craig M. Cameron made extensive use of concepts of masculinity derived from gender history in American Samurai : Myth, Imagination, and the Conduct of Battle in the First Marine Division, 1941-1951 (1994).

Indeed, given that war is among the most heavily gendered of all human activities -- during the course of history warriors have overwhelmingly been male, and the warrior ethos is heavily associated with stereotypically masculine traits -- military historians ought to become strongly acquainted with gender studies.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/30/2006

Does the word "gender" mean "women" to you?


Ralph E. Luker - 9/30/2006

No, no. Mr. Reich. You're padding the list to sustain a point that you've already lost. I know Stephen Kantrowitz and his work pretty well and he is not, by any stretch of the imagination, "a women's historian" -- even for your rhetorical purposes. (Check his publications, if you don't take my word for it.) What is true of Steve is true of several others whose names you use to pad your list.


HAVH Mayer - 9/30/2006

I guess I want to suggest that an extra-academic patron/constituency/research locus, or an alternate home within the university, may both impede a field's adaptation to trends in the broader discipline, and at the same time ensure its survival. Over the past generation military history may in fact have been in decline as a field of study within history departments (as diplomatic and constitutional history have been said to be) -- but in a more general context it has not been at risk. The emergence of a program involving two leading departments (Duke-UNC)certainly looks like a sign that the field is (re)asserting its place in the mainstream.


Mark Grimsley - 9/29/2006

1. I did address the substance of your posts at great length, only to have you ask sardonically if I was "paid by the word?"

2. I did not call you every name in the book. I told you exactly what I thought of the persona you present here on Cliopatria. It is an unattractive persona to say the least. If anyone besides you would like to defend your persona, I'm all ears.

3. Re innumeracy: three women's historians does not equal seventeen women's historians. Innumeracy is the kindest explanation I can think of for such a complete misrepresentation of the facts.

4. I used the term criticism, not attack. Characerizing my post as "specious, ad-hominem argument" is a criticism.


Mark Grimsley - 9/29/2006

I intuit there's something of value in this comment, but confess I'm having trouble understanding exactly what you're driving at. Would it be possible to rephrase your main point, or perhaps explain it in a different way? Thanks!


HAVH Mayer - 9/29/2006

If there is indeed less military history being taught in American universities, the decline may be attributable in part to more women students and to academic fashion (the “cultural turn,” focus on white male leaders, etc.), as well as to more direct anti-militarism -- but there may also be institutional factors.

A generation ago I co-wrote an article on “Agriculture, the Island Empire” arguing that an activity once near the center of many fields of thought had grown apart into a parallel institutional structure, including not only specialized scientific disciplines but separate departments of rural sociology and agricultural economics. There is, I think, less agricultural history in history departments than there once was, and also less history of education and legal/constitutional history. What these historical topics have in common is that each has not only an alternative home within the university, but also a connection to a significant government activity and bureaucracy.

In particular, I would suggest that when a federal department or agency is at the center of gravity of a field of study, that field is likely to be marginalized in the academic world; I would not hazard to untangle cause and effect. This certainly comes into play with military history.

I should add, first, that excellent scholarship can come out of these “islands”; and second, that fields at some point concentrated in specialized settings can re-enter the institutional mainstream -- as has occurred, for instance, in Native American studies and the history of technology.


Mark Grimsley - 9/29/2006

Stephan's criticisms of me personally weren't worth a response, but his reply to Rebecca is another matter.

1. There are any number of military historians who employ social history extensively. A few examples from the American Civil War alone:

Steven V. Ash
Albert Castel
Michael Fellman
Joseph T. Glatthaar
Earl J. Hess
James M. McPherson
Reid Mitchell
James I. Robertson
Daniel E. Sutherland
Bell I. Wiley
Steven E. Woodworth

That comes from a two-minute glance at my book shelves. The list could easily be extended into dozens, and the American Civil War is far from an aberration. As usual, Stephan makes assertions, treats them as facts, and makes others do the actual work of deploying evidence. This really gets tiresome. If Stephan has ever made a constructive comment on Cliopatria, I have yet to see it.

2. There are several endowed chairs and named professorships in women's history. There are also many "ordinary" faculty positions because in the 1970s and 80s, women's historians took the time and effort to organize their field, develop and implement a coherent plan to enlarge its position within the academy, and created scholarship good enough, and new ways of conceptualizing history valuable enough, that by 1994 24 out of 25 of the top history departments in the country were convinced that they needed a program in women's history.

In contrast, military historians have singularly failed to emulate the confidence, professionalism, and careful planning of the women's historians. On the contrary, the leadership of the American Military Institute (now the Society for Military History) did not even hold an annual meeting in which conference papers were presented, nor did it have a refereed journal that is the norm in academic fields. The SMH has done much better in that regard, but still balks at developing plans to expand the field.

Instead its leadership, like the rank and file, is content to bewail the marginalized place of military history in the academy. Theirs are the politics of victimization, and an impotent politics of victimization at that. The culture of complaint within the SMH suggests that they have taken lessons from Stephan.

3. It's no surprise that Stephan would overlook the practicalities of funding an endowed chair. It would force him down to earth, where the rest of us have to deal with reality.

I usually ignore Stephan because he so richly deserves ignoring, but his useless carping closely echoes the crap I have to hear from military historians -- many but not all -- who should know better. Thus, I'm succumbing to what, in my better moments, I know is a total waste of time. The Stephans of the world accomplish nothing, achieve nothing. They just whine and throw stones -- and when they throw stones, they throw like girls. (Apologies to girls everywhere capable of throwing a stone competently. Please refrain from demonstrating your prowess on me. My bones are getting a bit old and creaky.)

4. Stephan can't even count. There are three women's historians at Wisconsin, not seventeen. Perhaps he thinks that every female professor is, ipso facto, a specialist in women's history. That's incredibly ignorant for someone who presumes to comment on a blog devoted to academic history.


John Hogue - 9/29/2006

Seven of the seventeen professors in the transnational gender and women's history program are "associated faculty," that is, they are not professors in the history department. Of the other professors, not many are "women's historians." I suppose it must be some kind of crime to have even a passing interest in the history of women.

It should also be noted that a number of historians in the department do deal with issues of military history. Brenda Gayle Plummer's excellent article on the US occupation of Germany in the edited volume Window on Freedom is just one example. Undergraduates are exposed to military history both in introductory and upper level classes, from the Revolution through the Cold War. UW-Madison has a very good reputation in Diplomatic history, and has made an effort to sustain that commitment despite massive cutbacks in state funding. If the people of Wisconsin cared at all about getting a qualified military historian for their flagship university, they would stop voting for legislators who feel that education is an extravagance.


Rebecca Anne Goetz - 9/29/2006

Really? It looks to me like Miller didn't respond to Mark's most salient points (that many of the military historians Miller idolizes also self-identify as social historians, and also that it takes more than $1 million to endow a chair).


Ralph E. Luker - 9/29/2006

Proving that you don't know the meaning of "specious" "ad hominem" or what it looks like when someone "wipes the floor".

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