On the first big point, I like very much the idea of writing a course description that gives instructors the flexibility to approach the survey according to their own gifts and sense of what really matters. On the second, all I did was suggest a three-quarter sequence. The periodization Geoffrey outlines is Geoffrey's. But it raises some interesting questions.
- Thanks, Mark, for laying this out so clearly, and to Joe for sharing his concerns. I agree that "European warfare" is VERY restrictive and makes it hard to accomplish Mark's goal of globalization. I see two possible alternatives:
- 1. Leave the title alone and fudge. (Been there, done that.)
- 2. Submit a title and course outline change. It must *include* Europe -- I don't see a way of supporting, justifying or staffing an *additional* course on global history as well as American and European -- but its title could be amend to something like "The Western way of war and its enemies", which would leave each instructor free to weight the Western/non-Western components according to his/her choice. It would also encourage a debate on the Hanson theory -- and its enemies!
- Whether or not we do that, I think we must face the fact that (as Mark says) each year that passes increases the periods a course on "since XXXX" must cover. I like his case for a THREE quarter sequence in "West & the Rest" military history: one to circa 1450 (pre-colonies AND pre-decisive artillery); a second from then until circa 1830 (or if necessary 1850: pre-rapid colonization and pre-industrialization of war); a third "Since XXXX".
Figuring out the time limits for any historical subject is always more subtle and complex than it would at first glance appear. Geoffrey's suggested periodization, for instance, would sharply reduce the scope for coverage of the two world wars. This would be a defensible but major change in the way military historians traditionally approach those subjects. The upside is that it would force us to take a longer view of both conflicts. Locating them between the wars of imperialism and the wars of decolonization would almost certainly suggest a different set of concerns and emphases than those we currently select. The downside is twofold. Intellectually, one wonders whether the presentation of the two world wars might become too abstract or idiosyncratic. Pragmatically, one would have to revise one's existing lectures on the wars so extensively that you might as well as do them de novo.
Geoffrey's suggestion also implicitly questions the tendency for surveys to look at the past through reverse binoculars. That is to say, historical eras closest to us are usually treated in far more detail than those which are more remote. For instance, the current 580 sequence allocates just 74 years to the second half, while the first half is expected to cover nearly 400 years. It's much the same in 582 (American military history): the first half covers about three centuries, the second half less than a third of that. History surveys in other fields follow the same pattern. The underlying assumption, of course, is that students need a more detailed understanding of the recent past. Like most assumptions, it's open to question, but I seriously doubt most historians would reject it.
I think that in the short run we may as well keep the temporal parameters of the 580 sequence pretty well in place, especially if we want parameters that would permit an instructor to select either a European or a global focus. If excising the word "European" from the course title is necesary to create room for the latter focus, retaining the current time limits is arguably best to allow the former focus to be handled coherently. As for a third, post-1945 course: we used to have such a course under the auspices of the now-defunct subject of National Security Policy Studies (NSPS was created back in the days when the Mershon Center involved itself with formal coursework). We could resurrect it as a History 594, Topics in History--a catch-all devised to allow instructors to experiment with a new course before putting it permanently on the books.
All that said, I think I'll pursue Geoffrey's parting suggestion: "Since John Lynn [of the University of Illinois] has experience of both the subject and of this department, why don't we ask his opinion?"