What is Military History?

This is  probably a topic I should have tackled a few months when I started this blog; I have come to realize that i am in the minority when it comes to military history and my view of what it should be.   I guess the best way to describe myself is that I am a macro-historian and not a micro-historian.

What is Military History is a pretty good question from my perspective.   The definition determines how military history is written in the first place and to what uses it is put.   Modern military history arguably began with the reformers of the Prussian Army after 1805 and the creation of the Prussian staff system and most importantly the Prussian Kriegsakademie.   In its infancy, modern military history served a very simple purpose, to prepare military leaders for war by instructing them in the successes and failures of past military leaders.   The Kriegsakademie excelled at producing what would today be known as drums & trumpets type military history.  Â In that vein military history had a definite purpose; to allow future leaders to learn lessons from the past.   That is not all the Kriegsakademie did by any means but it is the most import thing for the purposes of this post.   The Prussian type of military history was the template for most western military history until relatively recently; say the up to the 1970’s.

The “New Military History” attempts to integrate social, economic, cultural and other factors into the telling of military history.   To me it does so almost to the exclusion of combat itself.   I guess I can buy the argument that all these factors play into the way a nation fights and the type of army a nation builds.

My main concern with studying war is the practical, war-winning lessons to be learned from the study of past conflict.   This does not mean that there is no room for “New Military History”, only that I don’t think it should be the primary focus of military history.

There is a good piece about the demise of academic military history here: “Rally Once Again”: The Embattled Future of Academic Military History