Citino Article

Citino, Robert M. “Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction.” American Historical Review 112, no. 4 (October 2007): 1070-90.

            Robert Citino opens his 2007 essay “Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction” with an acknowledgement, which may also be interpreted as a criticism, of how military history is popular in mainstream media yet increasingly lacking in academia. Citino speaks on behalf of military historians disgruntled by the diminishing presence of academic military history despite how often it is depicted for the general public to enjoy. Citino is speaking to historians as his target audience and urging them to take part in solving this issue by adding to the literature of military history. This is especially evident in how he closes his final paragraph of the essay, expressly stating a “final advice to [his] professional colleagues and friends… Read some military history” (1090).

            Citino explains that military historians evolve their analytical approaches to writing military history is to better respond or add to existing military history literature. Appropriately labeling the article as a reintroduction, Citino presents what he considers to be the three major types of military historians. He categorizes these as new military historians, traditional operational historians, and historians who “study military affairs in their broadest sense” (1071) by focusing on the histories of culture and memory.

            Citino refers to the works of multiple history writers to demonstrate how they distinctively analyze military history within the school of thought they utilize in their writing. Citino uses editors Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel’s Battles and Leaders to give an example of how the American Civil War is being revisited by new military historians, “historians of race, of gender, and of civilian life in the conquered and occupied South” (1072), and written about in ways that move far from the battle fields. He refers to Dennis E. Showalter as an exemplar of operational military historians, stating that his 2004 book The Wars of German Unification “is almost entirely free of personalism” (1080), demonstrating how this school of thought is strict in its demand for detail orientation and facts.

            Citino identifies how users of any of the three categories are unable to attain a well-rounded and complete account of military history without using each of the methods of analysis collectively. It is Citino’s hope that military history scholars will lead to a new phase of creating academic military history material. He urges the history scholars who are in the audience of his essay to “try something genuinely daring, even countercultural” (1090). In applying all three of the major types of military history writing, scholars may be able to write in a way that produces more substantial material. This would be beneficial to all military history writers in that it would create much more fresh literature for each other to respond or add to.

            Citino is in an advantageous position to write this type of persisting essay because he himself is a member of the group he hopes to appeal to and influence. At the end of the essay, there is a brief synopsis of what qualifies Citino to be writing such a bold proclamation:

Robert M. Citino is Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University. A specialist in operational military history, he is the author of eight books, including The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years’ War to the Third Reich (Lawrence, Kans., 2005) and the forthcoming Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942 (Lawrence, Kans., 2007).  (1090)

             In identifying the shortcomings of each of the schools of thought, even one he is a specialist in, Citino is in a vulnerable and genuine position to propose that all historians would benefit from attempting to write in a way that analyzes military history in each of the three main approaches.

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