Welcome To The Society For Military History
We seek to educate future Americans to fully appreciate the sacrifices that generations of American Soldiers have made to safeguard the freedoms of this nation. Through popular media and public discourse in this decade alone, American students have heard about such events as the bicentennials of the Napoleonic Wars and War of 1812, the centennial of the First World War, and the sesquicentennial of the battle of Gettysburg. They realize that in order to fully comprehend the significance of these commemorations, they need a basic historical grounding that can explain why the events mark turning points—and have thus become influential pieces of our contemporary narrative. Students long for intellectual frameworks that help them understand the world in which they live—and the study of war and conflict is an essential part of such frameworks. For instance, it is difficult if not impossible to understand the geo-political fault-lines of the 21st century world if one does not understand the causes and outcomes of the First World War.
Even as the American people built a large military and handed it vast responsibilities, they devoted less and less time to equipping their future civilian leaders with the knowledge they need to interact with the military in informed and constructive ways. This affects the nation’s ability to develop, implement, and sustain an optimal national security strategy for itself, and to adequately address the great range of crucial issues pertaining to the effects and consequences of war. Our students’ desire for knowledge creates an important opportunity for Departments of History. The late recession has produced a drop in humanities majors as students seek courses that seem more likely to produce an immediate payoff in terms of jobs and wages. Legislative budget cuts have forced even state schools to conform to a tuition-driven model, and departments that cannot attract a sufficient number of students can expect hard times to get harder. University college administrators, particularly college deans and chairs of History Departments, may find some relief in the appeal of military history.
But there is a case to be made for retaining and reinvigorating the term, linking it to the body of innovative scholarship that has been produced in recent years, and continues to be produced today. The first step is open communication and exchange between those inside the field and those outside of it. Within the academy, conversation and education ought to be the first steps towards breaking down stereotypes. The short essay that follows will argue the case for integrating a broadened, revitalized military history subfield into history departments nationwide. McFarland is a leading independent publisher of academic and general interest nonfiction books.
I shot a note to the Executive Council this afternoon to begin the discussion about cancellation of the conference, and it did not take long to come to a decision. Finally, I’m sad that we will not have the opportunity this year to gather together as a Society and as a community of scholars to learn, meet and greet old colleagues, and make new acquaintances. Conditions, however, have deteriorated to the point that cancellation is the best option available to us. Any use of military force is so consequential on so many levels that it demands serious contemplation and full comprehension by all those in a democratic polity who own some piece of responsibility for it. When Americans go to war, they do so because they have been sent by the elected leaders of the Republic; they carry the flag of the United States, and wear that flag on the sleeves of their uniforms.
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We find ourselves called upon, sometimes, to answer the charge that by studying armed conflict we are glorifying it or condoning it. Because the field was predominantly male for a long time, many of our colleagues assume that it remains so, and is hostile to women. The Society for Military History is a United States–based international organization of scholars who research, write, and teach military history of all time periods and places. It includes naval history, air power history, and studies of technology, ideas, and homefronts. The society was established in 1933 as the American Military History Foundation, renamed in 1939 the American Military Institute, and renamed again in 1990 as the Society for Military History.
Excellent panel, paper, and poster submissions will clearly explain their topics and questions in ways that will be understandable to the broad membership of the SMH, not only to those interested in the specific topics in question. Submissions of pre-organizedpanels are strongly encouraged and will be given preference in the selection process. The Program Committee also accepts panel submissions without chair and commenter. In that case, if accepted, chair and commenter will be assigned by the conference organizers.