Sunday, December 05, 2004

Globalizing the History of War

The military history faculty meets on Tuesday to coordinate our teaching schedules for next year. We'll also discuss a few other items, most notably the expansion of our list of courses to incorporate world/global military history. Currently we have two upper-division surveys, each of which is a two-quarter sequence:

History of European Warfare

580.01 European Warfare, 1500-1870
580.02 European Warfare, 1871-1945 [no link available]

American Military Policy

582.01 American Military, 1607-1914
582.02 American Military, 1914-Present

In addition, our colleague Nathan Rosenstein teaches a 500-level course on war in the ancient mediterranean world.

There are two basic ways by which we could add world military history into the mix. The first would be to create a third upper-division survey. The problem with this solution, however, is that it would raise the number of 500-level courses to six--seven if you include Nathan's--and it would be difficult to offer so many courses on a regular basis. The other option is to reframe the existing courses, most likely by broadening the existing course descriptions of 580 to make room for teaching them in global perspective. The problem with that solution--or more precisely, the challenge--would be getting everyone in the field to agree to a new set of course descriptions and parameters.

Allan, Joe, Jenni and I will be present at the meeting. Geoffrey can't make it, but he's circulated a memo giving his views:

Thanks, Mark, for your leadership on this. Sorry I can't make the meeting, but I would like to express my support for [the] particular initiative you outline. . . .

My personal preference would be
(a) expand 580 so that it is more "global";
(b) have military historians take their turn in teaching the History 181/182 [World History survey] sequence, with a military history spin to it -- and you, Mark, are showing the way here by taking it on in 2005-6, for which we should all commend you.

That brought a response from Joe:

I endorse Geoffrey's remarks.

My only thought on the world military front concerns 580.02. Maybe I'm showing my non-trendiness, but the course as Mark and I have taught it the last few times pretty much fills the bill. We could emphasize the non-western fallout pre-WWI imperialism and the two World Wars a bit more -- we have slighted China in particular -- but unless there is some huge methodological hurdle of which I am blissfully ignorant, we're pretty much there. A world equivalent to 580.01 would be a very different matter, but in the fulness of time I'm prepared to tackle that. Heck: I've already got the Ottomans covered.
By and large I agree with Joe about 580.02 in terms of geographical coverage. But I do see a conceptual if not methodological hurdle, in that a course title and description involving "European warfare" makes it pretty tough to do a global military history of the 1871-1945. The core of 580.02 is what might be called the Second Thirty Years War--the European civil war of 1914-1945, and the existing course could not accommodate an approach that selected a different core; e.g., the rise of modern Japan and the frequent, bloody and momentous wars in east Asia during the same time frame..

The issue of Historically Speaking that Geoffrey gave me contains an article by Robbie Robertson, author of The Three Waves of Globalization: A History of Developing Global Consciousness (Zed Books, 2003). Globalization, in Robertson's formulation, is "the outcome of human interconnections." Note the adjective human, not corporate. "This globalization is about human empowerment and democratization, a focus that for the historian can rescue the human story from the parochialisms of the past and provide glimpses of humanity's common history and shared interests. . . . "

Look at the place of warfare in the next paragraph of Robertson's article:

Three waves of globalization have enveloped humanity. Each wave produced new forms of interconnections and generated new synergies that in time led to its own transformation. No wave has been the product of one civilization or one culture alone, despite our tendency to conflate globalization and Westernization. Waves encompass many cultures; they enable interaction and cross-fertilization. No wave has ever been the creature of one country alone, although at times would-be hegemons have tried to monopolize them. Such attempts at exclusivity have always been counterproductive. By reducing interconnections, they smothered globalization and generated instability. War and conquest became attractive alternatives. The first wave [which began in the 16th century] faltered during the late 18th century for this reason; the second wave [which got rolling in the early 19th century] similarly collapsed in the early 20th century [thanks to the Great Depression and the fascist regimes with their preference for conquest and economic autarky]. The same prospect could face our current third wave.

It seems to me that using Robertson's formulation, History 580.01 could be reframed to deal with warfare during the first wave of globalization and the cycle of wars that eventually curtailed it. In the same way, History 580.02 would address warfare during the second wave. You'd scarcely have to change the dates at all--maybe tweak the breakpoint a bit from 1871 to something like 1830 or thereabouts, but that's about it. We could also write the course descriptions in such a way that a faculty member who wished to emphasize the European experience--the triumph of the West, in Geoffrey's formulation--could still teach the courses that way. The idea is to create intellectual space for new interpretive schemes, not to squelch more established ones.

It's also worth noting that nearly sixty years have passed since the end of the Second World War: just fourteen years short of the seventy-four year period covered by the current 580.02 sequence. It would not be out of place to suggest the creation of at least one new course: warfare during the third, current wave of globalization; or to put it another way, war in the postcolonial world.

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