Military History

Is Civilian Control of the Military Eroding?

Three of the leading figures in the Trump administration are military men. When President Trump refers to “my generals,” he has Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly foremost in mind. By holding powerful positions almost always staffed by civilians, they have provoked widespread concern that civilian control of the military is eroding. As part of its ongoing Congressional Briefing series, the National History Center brought several prominent historians to Capitol Hill to provide perspectives on this subject. 

September 28, 2017

“To Save Her Sister’s Soul”: Uncovering a Nurse’s Trauma in WWI Britain

One of the most challenging aspects of studying the case notes of women treated for war trauma is that I encounter them at some of the worst moments of their lives. There are often few ways to find more information about them, or to learn what their lives were like after they were released. In many cases, the only story that I can craft about the women I study is about their incarceration in asylums and hospitals, or about their struggle for pensions and medical recognition through their postwar pension files.

Liberty’s Legacies: Philadelphia’s New Museum of the American Revolution

By Anna Leigh Todd

In 1818, John Adams reflected on the founding of the nation, asking, “But what do We mean by the American Revolution? Do We mean the American War?” His response signaled otherwise: “The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People.” According to Adams, the people put aside their natural allegiance to Britain once it was clear that their liberties were under attack. “This radical Change in the Principles, Opinions Sentiments and Affection of the People,” affirmed Adams, “was the real American Revolution.” 

Gendered Treatments of Trauma during the First World War

“Patient has an anxious frightened and distressed expression . . . is unhappy and emotional . . . .” During the First World War, such descriptions were often used in case notes to describe patients with shell-shock. This particular description comes from the case notes of a woman named Margaret Müller, a Belgian refugee who was admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum in 1915. I found Müller’s case notes during my dissertation research, thanks to the help of the dedicated archivists at the London Metropolitan Archives.

Memory and Peace in Colombia

By Joshua M. Rosenthal

Colombia has maintained a reputation as a country of forgetting since the world fell in love with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Since then, others have added to the tradition. In the recently translated Reputations, the novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez updates the idea, “Forgetfulness was the only democratic thing in Colombia: It covered them all, the good and the bad, the murderers and the heroes, like the snow in the James Joyce story, falling upon all of them alike.” Nor are such assertions confined to literature.

“Boots on the Ground”: US Soldiers and the Strains of Overseas Deployment

By Susan L. Carruthers

On January 16, 2017, the New York Times printed an arresting image of US Marines arriving in Norway, the first foreign troops to be deployed on Norwegian soil since 1945. The accompanying text focused on Norwegians’ anxieties about what this deployment, announced as an opportunity for the Marines to “hone their abilities to fight in tough winter conditions,” might portend in geopolitical terms. Like any display of “alertness,” this show of preparedness risks aggravating tensions rather than alleviating them.

AHA Member Spotlight: Gregory Bereiter

Gregory Bereiter is a historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command where he’s currently researching and writing about naval operations in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and has been a member since 2009.