Most of these broader effects of military affairs are still largely ignored by most of military history. There is still an Old Guard in the field – a group of scholars who (quite literally) stick to their guns by insisting that the field’s primary purpose is to narrate and explain combat operations, analyze weapons and technology, and evaluate battles according to ostensibly timeless doctrines of tactics, strategy, and the “military sciences.” To their supporters, these historians are riveting storytellers (and they certainly do sell a lot of books). To their critics, the Old Guard is filled with methodological isolationists and historical exceptionalists who perpetuate the unhelpful notion that military operations somehow exist in a separate sphere outside the other narratives, institutions, and ideological apparatuses of American national life.
Luckily, there is a Jeune Ecole in military history as well – a new school of scholars who are actively seeking to redefine the field and to integrate the study of military affairs into broader considerations of economic, political, and diplomatic history. The scholars on this roundtable are in the vanguard of that movement. Each one will devote ten minutes to summarizing recent research – in all cases, a recently-completed or in-progress book manuscript – which will leave 30-40 minutes for discussion on the potential boundaries and future landscapes of military history. Katherine C. Epstein will explore the extensive material and cultural infrastructure – credit, communications networks, a financial surplus, and a compliant population – that both Great Britain and the U.S. used to spread their nations’ military influence all over the world. Michel Paradis will explain how the legal infrastructure of the Geneva Conventions and related international norms concerning torture stemmed from the Doolittle Raider trials of World War II. Jennifer Mittlestadt will discuss the rise of the military welfare state and its extensive infrastructure in American society.