The Study of War in Academia

Victor Davis Hanson recently penned an excellent article on the decline of military history in institutions of higher learning. The post-Vietnam anti-military atmosphere that has descended on universities in recent decades has produced a generation that is woefully uninformed on the great lessons from past wars.

John Leo recently interviewed Hanson to explore this topic further. When asked if the study of military history will ever return to academia, Hanson gave an insightful response:

I’m afraid an entire generation must pass first. Those who came of age in the university in the 1960s and 1970s—now department chairmen, deans, senior theses advisors, scholarly associations’ presidents, etc— wanted this revolution of easy arm-chair therapeutic moralizing and self-appointed censure of perceive contemporary sins, got it, turned off the students, forfeited hard-won standards, and lost their public readership—and now must suffer the consequences of irrelevancy for a generation. It is not an accident that a David McCullough or John Keegan or Martin Gilbert now writes outside the campus. Vibrant military history has gone on-despite or perhaps even because- of the failure of the academia.

Hanson offers cautious hope that the success of war stories in the popular media (Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, 300, etc.) is taking up the slack left by a misguided intelligentsia.


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