Friday, March 04, 2005

SMH Blog?

For reasons I still haven't fully revealed, I'm a newly converted fan of the Society for Military History (SMH), which until recently I had concluded was unlikely to be of much help in advancing military history as an academic field. My conversations at the recent Charleston annual meeting have given me a more optimistic view.

I promise not to keep you in suspense--or whatever you're feeling about this--much longer. But it's the end of Winter Quarter and I'm totally slammed. Moreover, I am in the process of moving the blog to That site is already up and running, sort of, although at present it consists of a single page that I composed mainly as a way to evaluate the site-building tools on the new server. By Monday the new site should start to have something of its permanent appearance.

The Lee/Che flash presentation has also been revised--and the misspellings corrected, for the text-fixated nitpickers among you--and is in final form. [It should shortly be back online.] By and large I chose to leave it much as my web designer, Stephanie Wiseman, first created it. The "vision" of a military history that deals with both hegemonic and counterhegemonic power is mine, but I like the fact that a student (Ms. Wiseman is a sophomore here at OSU) has interpreted it.

The question now is what to do with, which is where the SMH reenters the picture. The SMH has a web site and a quarterly newsletter, The Headquarters Gazette, which is partially available online. It does not yet have a blog. It seems to me that a blog whose "beat" covered the field of military history could be valuable. And I mean the whole field: nonwestern, left-leaning, PC, trend-mongering, war/race, war/gender and/or subversive military history as well as the more familiar (but nonetheless vital) forms of military history. I think I also mean popular and public as well as academic varieties of military history, though I will be damned if I will let academic military history take a back seat to these other forms, as has so often occurred in the past.

I'd be willing, if asked, to reconfigure as the SMH blog, though through the device of the subdomain it would be simple and, I think, better to create a blog whose name really fit the SMH. This could be as minimalist as, as cute as Blogs and, as fierce as, or as straghtforward as All four domain names, I confidently predict, are still available.

What I don't know is whether I could find enough committed bloggers within the military history community to make the thing work. I have plenty to do overseeing my own blogs (not just War Historian but also The Ohio Twenty-first). I would need bloggers from all corners of military history, most especially the realm of academic military history. It's pretty obvious that military analysts have discovered blogging, but academics, for all their puffery about being "cutting edge," are professionally among the most conservative people I have ever met. No new medium exists for them until the American Historical Association has not merely blessed that medium, but verily drowned it in academic holy water. The fate of Civil Warriors, my effort to partner with some grad students to create a blog, has not been inspiring. They seem to have discerned all too quickly the academic orthodoxy concerning blogdom.

Still, anybody dumb enough to be an academic military historian in the first place is probably dumb enough to blog about it. Any takers?


Mark G. said...

Donald Fleming sent me an email in which he says that he tried unsuccessfully to post this comment, so I do so now on his behalf:

I’ll be interested to learn why your opinion of the SMH has changed, when you have time to post that information. In the meantime, it seems to me that your analysis of the program leaves out one of its weaknesses: a near-complete neglect of pre-modern history. As far as I can see, there were only two sessions that dealt with the period before 1500, one on ancient intelligence-gathering and one on medieval military professionalism.

That’s a shame, since military topics are frequently addressed in by medieval historians. As you probably know, there is a fairly active Society for Medieval Military History, De Re Militari, which sponsors a good number of sessions yearly at the Medieval Congress and publishes its own journal. Further, although there are medieval scholars who specialize in military history (like Kelly De Vries, who is on the SMH program), there are many others who would label themselves political, institutional, or social historians yet work at least tangentially on military topics. For example, John Gillingham has written some seminal articles on English warfare ca. 1066-1216, but is probably better known for his biography of Richard I or his work on views of the Celtic ‘other.’

Perhaps the SMH should aim to broaden its chronological as well as its topical range. Medievalists could perhaps ‘bring something to the table’ in terms of integrating military scholarship into the historical mainstream.

Donald Fleming

Jonathan Dresner said...

I would argue that the AHA has taken the first step towards blessing (not yet drowning, but still) blogging in the Public Realm section of its latest edition of the Professional Standards. If public discourse is worth professionalizing, then it seems to me that it should be considered a professional activity to our credit.

Mark G. said...

Thanks! That's very helpful.