Military history is the study of armed conflict between nations or other identifiable groups, and the many components, background factors, and implications and impact of those conflicts on nations, individuals and perceptions. Modern military history has grown to include many new areas of study going well beyond traditional concerns with campaigns, individual battles, and famous generals.
It is by no means a purely academic discipline. The very first position created on the groundbreaking Prussian General Staff, in 1657, was the Historian.  Professional soldier usually have a deep interest in history; it is a firm belief, in the United States Army, that analysis of the American Civil War is both important and requires an abundant supply of beer. Intelligence analysis often must interpret information in a historical context.
- 1 Leading scholars
- 2 Traditional military history
- 3 New Military History movement
- 4 H-War: Military History Network
- 5 Theorists
- 6 Regional studies
- 7 Popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
- 10 Further reading
Recent leading scholars and major books are listed at Society for Military History, the leading scholarly society.
Major scholars writing in English in the last decade include: Stephen E. Ambrose, Jeremy Black, Martin Blumenson, Robert Doughty, Edward J. Drea, David M. Glantz, John Keegan, James McPherson, Allan R. Millett, Richard Overy, Geoffrey N. Parker, Dennis Showalter, John Shy, and Robert M. Utley.
Traditional military history
Traditional military history can be divided into four major realms of study.
(or grand strategic), in which warfare at the highest levels is examined, including the planning and resource management of entire nations, the effects of politics and diplomacy on military affairs, and the inter-relation of civic policies and the military.
in which warfare is studied from the perspective solely of military formations. Topics might include strategic planning in a specific campaign or theater, logistics issues, divisional histories, accounts of major battles, etc.
in which how battles are fought are examined. Topics of interest might be unit (battalion/regiment) histories, or examinations of weapons, equipment and tactics.
such as biographies of famous leaders or mere footsoldiers, as well as anthologies or collections of interviews. Can also include theoretical treatises on topics such as combat stress or battle training.
Modern histories beginning in the late 20th Century became interdisciplinary in that many published histories began to incorporate elements of all four basic levels of military history.
Traditional military history continues to fascinate buffs and reenactors, and is still taught at military academies. The focus is on battles and heroic soldiers. In the U.S. Civil War battles have been preserved, remembered, or reconstructed in thousands of reenactments, memorials, paintings, prints, photographs, motion pictures, television programs, novels, videos, and computer games.  Scholars are generally quite negative, because as historian Edward Tabor Linenthal explains about Gettysburg, "Fixation on the battlefield itself played out in the extreme in battle reenactments, celebrated American martial courage and ignored the more profound legacy of the battle and the war." Fascination with reenactment and antiquarianism, had given traditional military history a bad name among academics, who are contemptuous of the "Which regiment took the Peach Orchard?" approach to history."
New Military History movement
Since the 1970s a dramatic shift has taken place away from traditional military history to the "New Military History."
In the United States, the so-called "new military history" evolved rapidly during the 1980s. It broadened the focus and current methodology, allowing historians to formulate new problems, find new materials, and use new methods. The interest of American academic circles in this New Military History has resulted in new lines of historical research. Among the most fruitful are the historical study of military technology, the interesting debate about the "Military Revolution" in Early Modern history, and the analysis of armed conflict and the nature of combat with particular attention to strategic, logistical, and tactical problems. The most rapid growth has been in the social history of the armed forces, which analyzes such subjects as the social composition of armies, recruitment and military training, motivation, and the effects of military service. Critics complain the new military history minimizes subject of combat and downplays famous people and battles. The new military history does place less emphasis on soldiers, weapons, tactics, and operations and more on society, economics, politics, and culture.
Lynn (1997) argues academic military history faces an increasingly hostile environment because of the current fashions in the study of history. Theoretical complexity, novelty, and even the trivial are now exalted over the traditional forms of historical studies that are at the heart of military history. The "holy trinity plus one" - race, class, and gender in the workplace and popular culture - are the preferred fields of study. Many of the faculty members on the "cutting edge" have no tolerance for interests and approaches that run counter to current trends, leading to an imbalance in hiring that restricts history departments to a narrow focus. There is hope, however, that military history can survive in the hostile academic environment, but to do so it must explore subject matter and methodologies that fit well with contemporary trends. Both gender history and the "new cultural history," for example, hold promise for military historians, even in the study of combat, the essence of military history
What happened to battles?
The biggest impact came in the shift away from the study of battles. At one time battles were emphasized because of the supposed universal patterns could be gleaned by studying old battles that would be applicable to future actions. This style especially characterized military academies. Secondly battles were studied because of their current political implications for national pride. Thirdly, they made great stories of courage, excitement, blunders and bloodshed.
Ironically, just as the battlefield narrative was achieving new standards of comprehensiveness and depth in the immediate postwar period (1950s), the whole discipline of military history was reshaped by new developments. The "new military history" focused on institutions, society, and thought rather than action.
"What happened on the battlefields of the Civil War is very important to know and understand," historian David Blight argues states in Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War (2002). But to know what happened on the battlefield is not nearly enough: "The legions of readers for Civil War military history should continue to hear the bugle call to knowledge of how the war was fought, which leaders were most pivotal in outcomes and why, which factors led to Union victory and Confederate defeat, and the values and motivations of soldiers and civilians in waging such a fundamental struggle for America's national existence." Thus, Blight looks "beyond the battlefield" and puts traditional battle history in context--and, it seems, in its place.
"The most pressing challenge facing Civil War scholarship today," writes historian Daniel Sutherland regarding the purpose of "The Great Campaigns of the Civil War," a series published by the University of Nebraska Press, "is the integration of various perspectives and emphases into a new narrative that explains not only what happened, why, and how, but why it mattered." This series "points to new ways of viewing military campaigns by looking beyond the battlefield and the headquarters tent to the wider political and social context with which these campaigns unfolded; it also shows how campaigns and battles left their imprint on many Americans, from presidents and generals down to privates and civilians."
Traditional military history is sometimes disparaged as non-analytical narrative in which a popular writer provides little more than a chronology of generals and battles. Analysis of one hundred of the early 21st century's best military histories reveals that current military history goes well beyond such subject matter, incorporating social, cultural, and political history. Common areas of inquiry for contemporary historians include the impact of society, culture, and politics on a country's ability to wage war; the social, cultural, and political aftereffects of war; the society and culture of military organizations; and the relationship between military organizations and the communities from which they spring. While historians continue to devote considerable attention to the conventional militaries of Europe and the United States, many also are studying small armies, irregular forces, nonstate actors, civil wars, and non-Western armed forces. Within the military realm, historians frequently tackle subjects of much greater complexity than the generals-and-battles stereotype would suggest, to include the relationship between technological and human factors, the interdependency of land and naval warfare, and the influence of political direction on the military.
The Military Revolution
British historian Michael Roberts introduced the concept of the "Military Revolution" begun by the Swedes in the early modern period (1450-1600), which made offensive warfare much more effective in the West, and defensive strategies less viable. Innovations included ways to create, train, fund and maintain large armies, development of superior warships and cannon that could sink ships without boarding them, more effective muskets and infantry drill, and artillery that could destroy castle walls. Body armor and castles became useless, and kings (with bigger armies than local lords) consolidated their rule. The advantage over Asian military power became clear as the Spanish expelled the Moors by using artillery, Portuguese warships took control of the Indian Ocean, and Venice defeated the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto.
H-War: Military History Network
H-War: Military History Network, founded in March, 1995, is a moderated email-based discussion group and bulletin board for scholars, librarians, and teachers in the field of military history. It has an international audience of 1600 subscribers and is published daily; subscriptions are free.  H-War focuses particularly on research and teaching interests, new scholarship in the field, discussions of military historiography that foster critical thinking and enhance professionalism, and the sharing of knowledge and experience about the teaching of military history, including posting and discussion of course syllabi and reading lists. The discussion logs are open. H-War posts numerous announcements from scholarly societies about their journals, conferences, fellowships, and funding opportunities. It provides a forum for information on bibliographic and archival sources, as well as reports on new software, datasets, or Web sites relevant to military history. H-War is operated by ten editors, and is sponsored by H-Net, the umbrella group formed in 1992 that publishes over 100 such groups, including H-CivWar (on U.S. Civil War), H-Minerva (on women and the military), and H-Diplo (on diplomatic history).
Sun Tzu (544 BC – 496 BC), or Sunzi, was a Chinese writer known for his collection of aphorisms on military strategy called The Art of War. He stressed psychological dominance over the enemy, using deception and making use (in Taoist terms) of the opportunities afforded by geography. Chinese military strategists before 1200 AD often cited his work, as did Mao Zedung. Apart from the martial arts community his ideas were practically unknown outside China before the 20th century, and received little notice before the 1960s. Since then, however, writers have cherry-picked his aphorisms to support their argument, especially regarding guerrilla warfare.
Swiss soldier and military strategist Antoine-Henri Jomini (1779-1869) was born in Switzerland, served in Napoleon's army from 1804 to 1813, and then joined the army of Tsar Alexander I. He helped to revolutionize warfare through his publications that appeared from 1807 to 1834.
Jomini used a classical, Newtonian model that saw history as a body of empirical data from which one could derive timeless principles. He stressed maps that showed the "forces" (a Newtonian concept) and stressed the importance of quantitative data. Jomini-style history emphasized maps, with every unit and its strength clearly marked, with arrows to show movement of forces. He argued the immutable geometrical principle that "to be superior to the enemy at the decisive point is the key to victory." Jomini emphasized information and the value of intelligence, based on his experience with good intelligence in the French armies. Jomini emphasized the offensive only insofar as it resulted in the capture of places—he believed the occupation of territory or strategic points more important than confronting the American army.
Jomini was highly influential in America, where his disciples Dennis Mahan and Henry Wagner Halleck taught the great majority of top commanders on both sides of the U.S. Civil War. For example, As General-in-Chief of Lincoln's armies, Halleck was determined to apply the Jomini models to the Union armies in the East. This called for concentration, both strategically and tactically, with strong interior lines of communication between the two wings of the enemy. In his attempt to enforce these principles, Halleck met with little cooperation from General McClellan, who was slow to move his armies from the Potomac to support General Pope, and from the latter, who failed to observe Halleck's warning of an enemy attack from the rear. Faced with such obstruction, Halleck's plan failed and led to the defeat of Pope's armies by Robert E. Lee. Disciples of the Jomini-inspired "places theory" argued that the Confederacy could not stand without Vicksburg, New Orleans, Corinth, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and other key points, and made their capture the highest priority. 
Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) was a German theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war. His great work On War was unfinished at his death. He used a romantic or Hegelian conception of warfare, stressing the dialectic of how opposite factors interact, and noting how unexpected new developments unfolded under the "fog of war" and called for rapid decisions by alert commanders. Clausewitz saw history as a complex check on abstractions that did not accord with experience. In opposition to Jomini he argued war could not be quantified or graphed or reduced to mapwork and graphs.
He stressed the primacy of national policy in war. Clausewitz conceived of war as a political, social, economic, and military totality involving the entire population of a nation at war. He sees war as a social act and as an extension of politics. He stressed that wars are decided by decisive battles (unlike Jomini who stressed control of central geographical locations.) However Clausewitz's emphasis on the superiority of the defense suggests aggressive attacks can be failures. Clausewitz emphasizes the fusion of the regular army with militia, or citizen soldiers, as the only effective method of national defense. This point is especially important as it ends the independence and isolation of the regular military and democraticizes the armed forces much as universal suffrage democraticized politics.
In contrast to Jomini, Clausewitz largely dismissed the value of military intelligence: "Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain. . . . In short, most intelligence is false." His conclusions were influenced by his personal experiences in the Prussian Army, which was often in an intelligence fog due to the superior abilities of Napoleon's system.
Clausewitz had a strong influence on German military thought, and after 1900 on British thought. He had little influence on American military thought before 1945. . But he influenced Lenin and the Soviet tradition, as Lenin emphasized the inevitability of wars among capitalist states in the age of imperialism and presented the armed struggle of the working class as the only path toward the eventual elimination of war. Clausewitz directly influenced Chinese leader Mao Zedung. Mao read Clausewitz's On War in 1938 and organized a seminar on Clausewitz as part of the educational program for the Party leadership in Yan'an. Thus the "Clausewitzian" content in many of Mao's writings is not merely secondhand knowledge, via Lenin (as many have supposed), but reflects Mao's own in-depth study.
Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914) was the most influential military historian in the world in the era before World War I. His concept of "sea power" had an enormous influence in shaping the strategic thought of naval officials across the world, especially in the United States, Germany, Japan and Britain. His ideas still permeate the U.S. Navy. He used history as a stock of lessons to be learned--or more exactly, as a pool of examples that exemplified his theories. Mahan believed that national greatness was inextricably associated with the sea, with its commercial usage in peace and its control in war. His goal was to discover the laws of history that determined who controlled the seas. His theoretical framework came from Jomini, with an emphasis on strategic locations (such as chokepoints, canals. and coaling stations), as well as quantifiable levels of fighting power in a fleet. The primary mission of a navy was to secure the command of the sea. This not only permitted the maintenance of sea communications for one's own ships while denying their use to the enemy but also, if necessary, provided the means for close supervision of neutral trade. This control of the sea could not be achieved by destruction of commerce but only by destroying or neutralizing the enemy fleet. This called for concentration of naval forces composed of capital ships, not overly large but numerous, well manned with crews thoroughly trained, and operating under the principle that the best defense is an aggressive offense.
British theorist Sir Julian Corbett (1854-1922), was second only to Mahan as an influential exponent of sea power during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mahan emphasized the need for concentration of forces and the decisive battle. In contrast, Corbett advised that protection of shipping lanes and local control in decisive areas was more important. While Mahan overstated the value of colonies to national strength, he overlooked "guerre de course" (attacks on merchant ships) and technological innovation. Corbett erred both by ignoring convoy warfare and in advocating a passive strategy out of keeping with the aggressive naval tradition of his British constituency.
Maritime strategy of 1980s
Washington's so-called maritime strategy, which sought to apply US naval might against Soviet vulnerabilities on its maritime flanks, came to operation during the Reagan administration in the 1980s. The strategy, which witnessed a major buildup of US naval forces and aggressive exercising in seas proximate to the USSR, also explicitly targeted Moscow's strategic missile submarines with the aim of pressuring the Kremlin during crises or the early phases of global war.
Air power theory was developed during and shortly after World War I by Italian Giulio Douhet, American Billy Mitchell, and Briton Sir Hugh Trenchard. Douhet was quite influential, arguing that bombing of cities could destroy an enemy's willingness to continue fighting. Strategic bombing, therefore, could win a war without the horrible stalemate of the Western Front. Britain and the United States bought into strategic airpower, and developed long-range bombers. Germany, Japan and Russia did not accept the theory, and focused their air forces on tactical support for the ground soldiers. The major navies used aircraft as long-range spotters for battleships, not realizing until 1940-41 their independent power to win naval battles.
The 1990s was a decade of progress and unfulfilled promise in the field of Russian military history. Broader access to previously closed archives and widespread collaboration between Russian and foreign scholars - one of the decade's most important developments - coincided with a wave of publications in military history. Varying degrees of scholarly access to the Russian State Military-Historical Archive, the Russian State Military Archive, and the Central State Archive of the Ministry of Defense made it possible for historians to construct research on both neglected and sensitive issues. For instance, freer archival access underlay Oleg Fedotovich Suvenirov's Tragediia RKKA 1937-1938 [The tragedy of the Red Army, 1937-38] (1998), David Stone's Hammer and Rifle: The Militarization of the Soviet Union, 1926-1933 (2000), and numerous other works. The 1990s witnessed a modest revival in institutionally sponsored research, as well as a renaissance in serious scholarship on prerevolutionary Russian military history. One of the decade's more unusual developments was the exploration of hitherto taboo subjects, such as the history of military intelligence. However, only some attainments of the 1990's were genuine; others were incomplete or ephemeral. Questions also remain over fundamental issues, including problematic archival access, larger political uncertainties, and indifference toward things military.
Edward M. Coffman, a military historian who taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, emphasizes the role of the individual and includes analysis of social, political, and economic ramifications as well as battles. Coffman's monographs include one on Peyton C. March, army chief of staff during World War I, one on the American military experience during World War I, and one on the Old Army during peacetime, 1784-1898. Coffman notes that historians need as much information as they can "vacuum" and need to be honest to and with their subjects. He urges careful attention be paid to the individual testimonies of soldiers, both written and oral, when doing military history and provides examples of those historians who have accomplished this.
The most popular 1990s American novels and movies mention military culture in only about 6% of the books and 4% of the films. Most are either reflections of the past (such as "Saving Private Ryan") or projections of the future (such as "Starship Troopers"), although they do reflect modern attitudes. This cultural gap can also be seen in works that only glance at the military ("Wag the Dog"). Military or exmilitary protagonists in popular action novels and movies see themselves as tough realists with higher standards, more technological expertise, and greater responsibility than their civilian counterparts. Contemptuous of politicians and intrusive media journalists, they like finding creative ways around constricting rules. But the more literary books and films tend to be more critical of the military's bureaucratic inertia and preoccupations with status and power. This widening gap essentially reflects a shift from an American ethic of national service toward one of self-service.
- Guide to Military History chronological links edited by Richard Jensen
- "Military History Resources" topics links ed. by Thomas Pilsch
For a much longer guide see the Bibliography subpage at the tab above
- Archer, I. John R. Ferris, Holger H. Herwig, and Timothy H. E. Travers. World History of Warfare (2002) 638pp ISBN: 0-8032-4423-1
- Barnett, Correlli, Shelford Bidwell, Brian Bond, and John Terraine. Old Battles and New Defences: Can We Learn from Military History? (1986). online edition
- Black, Jeremy. Rethinking Military History (2004) online edition
- Black, Jeremy. Warfare in the Western World, 1775-1882 (2001) 240pp. excerpt and text search
- Black, Jeremy. Warfare in the Western World, 1882-1975 (2002), 256ppexcerpt and text search
- Chambers, John Whiteclay, ed. The Oxford Companion to American Military History (2000) excerpt and text search; also online at OUP
- Citino, Robert M. "Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction," The American Historical Review v 112, no. 4 (October 2007), pp. 1070–1090 online version
- Cowley, Robert, and Geoffrey Parker, eds. The Reader's Companion to Military History (2001) excerpt and text search
- Dear, I. C. B., and M. R. D. Foot, eds. Oxford Companion to World War II (2005) excerpt and text search; also online at OUP
- Doughty, Robert, Ira Gruber, Roy Flint, and Mark Grimsley. Warfare In The Western World (2 vol 1996), comprehensive textbook excerpt and text search vol 1, 1600-1870; excerpt and text search vol 2, 1871-1990
- Dupuy, R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupuy. The Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the Present (1977), 1465pp; comprehensive discussion focused on wars and battles
- Echevarria, Antulio J. Imagining Future War: The West's Technological Revolution and Visions of Wars to Come, 1880-1914 (2007) excerpt and text search
- Holmes, Richard, ed. The Oxford Companion to Military History ((2001) 1071pp; excerpt and text search; also online at OUP
- Noe, Kenneth W., George C. Rable and Carol Reardon. "Battle Histories: Reflections on Civil War Military Studies" Civil War History 53#3 2007. pp 229+. online edition
- Paret, Peter, Gordon A. Craig, and Felix Gilbert, eds. Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (1986), 940pp; influential intellectual history of all the major military thinkers
- See interpretations by two leading British scholars: Jeremy Black, Rethinking military history (2004); and Michael Howard, "Military history and the history of war", in Williamson Murray and Richard Hart Sinnreich, eds. The past as prologue: the importance of history to the military profession (2006).
- Goerlitz, Walter (1962), History Of The German General Staff 1657-1945, Praeger
- Stephen Ambrose, To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian (2002), his last book excerpt and text search
- Jeremy Black, War and the World: Military Power and the Fate of Continents, 1450-2000 (2000) excerpt and text search
- Martin Blumenson, The Duel for France, 1944: The Men and Battles That Changed the Fate of Europe (2000) excerpt and text search
- Robert A. Doughty, Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War (2005)excerpt and text search
- Edward J. Drea, In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army (2003) excerpt and text search
- David M. Glantz, Colossus Reborn: The Red Army At War, 1941-1943 (2005) excerpt and text search
- John Keegan, A History of Warfare (1994) excerpt and text search
- James M. McPherson, This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War (2007) excerpt and text search
- Allan R. Millett and Williamson, Calculations (2007) excerpt and text search
- Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won, (2006) excerpt and text search
- Geoffrey Parker, The Cambridge History of Warfare(2005) excerpt and text search
- Dennis Showalter, Patton and Rommel: Men Of War In The Twentieth Century (2005) excerpt and text search
- John Shy, A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence (2001)
- Robert M. Utley, Cavalier in Buckskin: George Armstrong Custer and the Western Military Frontier (2001) excerpt and text search
- Kenneth W. Noe, George C. Rable and Carol Reardon. “Battle Histories: Reflections on Civil War Military Studies” Civil War History 53#3 2007. pp 229+.
- Quoted in Noe (2007)
- See David A. Charters et al., eds.Military History and the Military Profession (1992) p 47.
- Quoted in Noe (2007)
- Quoted in Noe (2007)
- Mark Moyar, "The Current State of Military History," The Historical Journal (2007), 50: 225-240
- see Parker (1996)
- Online at 
- see 
- see the 1910 translation by Lionel Giles at 
- Stephen E. Ambrose, "Henry Halleck and the Second Bull Run Campaign." Civil War History 1960 6(3): 238-249. Issn: 0009-8078; Ambrose, Halleck: Lincoln's Chief of Staff (1996)
- Antulio Joseph Echevarria, II, After Clausewitz: German Military Thinkers Before the Great War (2001) excerpt and text search
- Christopher Bassford, Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America, 1815-1945. (1994)
- Jacob W. Kipp, "Lenin and Clausewitz: the Militarization of Marxism, 1914-1921." Military Affairs 1985 49(4): 184-191. Issn: 0026-3931 in Jstor
- J. J. Widen, "Sir Julian Corbett and the Theoretical Study of War." Journal of Strategic Studies 2007 30(1): 109-127. Issn: 0140-2390 Fulltext: Ebsco
- Christopher A. Ford and Rosenberg, David A. "The Naval Intelligence Underpinnings of Reagan's Maritime Strategy." Journal of Strategic Studies 2005 28(2): 379-409. Issn: 0140-2390 Fulltext: Ebsco
- Meilinger (2000); Meilinger (1997); Futrell (1989)
- Bruce W. Menning, "A Decade Half-full: Post-Cold War Studies in Russian and Soviet Military History." Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 2001 2(2): 341-362. Issn: 1531-023x not online
- Edward M. Coffman, and James Russell Harris, "'What Really Interests Me Are the People': Edward M. Coffman on Soldiers, Scholars, and the New Military History." Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 2001 99(2): 123-152. Issn: 0023-0243
- Howard Harper, "The Military and Society: Reaching and Reflecting Audiences in Fiction and Film" Armed Forces & Society 2000 27(2): 231-248.