Victor Davis Hanson: Decries the decline of military history classes

Historians in the News

For the last three decades, colleges and universities have shied away from the study of war, leaving most Americans without a "basic understanding of military matters," says Victor Davis Hanson, an emeritus professor of classics at California State University at Fresno and a contributing editor to the journal.
"This state of affairs," he writes, "is profoundly troubling, for democratic citizenship requires knowledge of war -- and now, in the age of weapons of mass annihilation, more than ever."

Ambivalence toward the Vietnam War sparked higher education's move away from military history, according to Mr. Hanson. In the wake of Vietnam, he says, "the necessary corrective wasn't to learn how such wars started, went forward, and were lost." Academics instead thought it was "better to ignore anything that had to do with such odious business in the first place."

The cold war did little to reignite interest in military history, says Mr. Hanson, nor have more recent conflicts, such as the war in Iraq. Today, he argues, "military history as a discipline has atrophied, with very few professorships, journal articles, or degree programs." When the rare military-history course is available, he says, it typically focuses on the relationship between conflict and society, rather than the study of battle itself.

"So a class on the Civil War," for instance, "will focus on the Underground Railroad and Reconstruction, not on Chancellorsville and Gettysburg."...

Victor Davis Hanson: City Journal article

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) summary of an article, "Why Study War?" by Mr. Hanson in City Journal.

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