Military History

For our History 297 class, we had to read Robert Cirno’s essay Military Histories Old and New. Seeing as I heavily enjoy reading military history, I enjoyed reading about the ways military historians write. Recently there has been a new movement within the study of military history. Historians have been focusing on the study of the social and political influences on war and vis a versa. Cirno contrasted Ramold and Shaffer, two civil war historians, and focused on how the African-American man was accepted into the military. From there, Cirno talked about the increase in writings on “the greatest generation” and the various forms of racial and gender politics that took place during World War II. One such result from this is the fact that WWII historians no longer view the Holocaust and the military campaigns of the Wehrmacht as being separate. That the Nazi army had played a major role in the Holocaust.  Cirno backed this up by referencing Edward Westermann, who wrote that the Wehrmacht was acting out the Holocaust as the army pushed East during Operation Barbarossa. From this, Cirno reinforces the idea that social and political ideas can be very closely tied to the actions of the military. This, he explained, was not a new idea. This had been the thinking of Medieval Historians for over a century.

Cirno brought up the issue of the “Military Revolution”, which has been of some debate for military historians. It refers to the drastic change of going from an army that relied upon cavalry and feudalism to a uniformed army with guns. Various military historians have tried to pinpoint when this truly began and what exactly caused it. There are those who believe it came about from the Thirty Years War or from much further before then. Personally, I am in agreement with the Thirty Years War theory, as it was the war in which the Swedish Empire came into existence and created combined arms tactics, as well as many other reforms. But I digress. Cirno notes that, if the revolution happened before the Thirty Years War, then that would mean the Absolute Monarchies came from military restructuring and not the other way around. From this, Cirno brings up the point that social and political issues not only influence the military during war, military structure influences society.

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