Summer Seminars

I propose creation of an annual summer seminar for non-military historians aimed at teaching them how to incorporate military history into their courses. This would be a worthwhile service in and of itself—I have spoken to a number of historians who avoid teaching the relevant military dimensions of their subject not from antipathy toward military history but rather from a feeling of ignorance. (On this point, see the guest post by Prof. Rebecca Goetz on Blog Them Out of the Stone Age.) It would also serve to disabuse academics of their stereotypes concerning military history.

A good model for the seminar is the three-week Summer Seminar held each year at West Point. I have been involved with the West Point seminar on three occasions and it is really quite impressively organized and executed. But for MHF purposes It has two drawbacks. First, it is geared to military historians and selects mainly military historians as participants. Second, it focuses mainly on strategic and operational subjects. The seminar I have in mind would be directed toward non-military historians and would address the subject matter with much greater breadth. While it would introduce participants to strategic and operational matters, it would deal principally with “war and society” issues.

Such a seminar could best be supported through a Summer Seminar and Institutes Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. These grants provide funding for seminars and institutes of two to six weeks' duration. The best vehicle for MHI purposes would be the program format termed the “ Institute for College and University Teachers,” which would provide funding for 25 to 30 participants. According the NEH guidelines, “An institute focuses on a topic of major importance in undergraduate curricula. Guided by a team of scholars, participants explore a challenging and complex subject. The primary goal is to deepen understanding of a subject in order to advance humanities teaching.”

The prerequisite to obtaining an NEH Summer Seminar and Institutes Grant would be to have a cadre of instructors and a suitable curriculum in place to support the application. To facilitate this, a prelominary step will be a two-day planning conference for military historians willing to serve as instructors and to craft a suitable curriculum.