Military historian

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A military historian is a scientist engaged in the research and presentation of military history. Scientific military history has been a subject area of historical science since Hans Delbrück . While older works by mainly officers dealt exclusively with wars , battles and generals , modern military history research expanded the field to include social and cultural-historical aspects without losing sight of its core component. This is to be distinguished from predominantly popular science journalists with a high affinity for technology . Serious military history research encompasses all epochs and is almost unlimited due to the importance of violence and war in human history. In particular, the point of view of the common soldier has recently come to the fore. Leading representatives of the subject can be found in particular in the Anglo-American region, where research has become institutionalized due to the less fault-line afflicted military history. Military history is also carried out there on an interdisciplinary basis, including other military science disciplines such as strategic studies and conflict research. In the German-speaking area, the Military History Research Office was a role model for research .

Research field

The field of research of a military historian is very broad. In science it is therefore controversial when a historian who works predominantly and extensively in neighboring disciplines ( local history , women's history , etc.) should actually call himself a military historian. In the overwhelming opinion, his activity is only justified if his research focus is also on military topics. General areas of interest in military history research are listed below. a. Antiquity , the Middle Ages , weapons , armor and fortress , the Thirty Years' War , mercenaries , Napoleonic Wars , American Civil War , colonialism and imperialism , uniforms and medals , World War I , naval history and maritime war , World War II , history of aviation and air war , Cold War , Korean War , Vietnam War , Terrorism , Intelligence Services , Security Policy , Private Security and Military Companies, and Cyber ​​War . Popular science-oriented works by writers such as those on generals of the Second World War or military vehicles are not recognized by scientific research .

German-speaking area


The commitment of Hans Delbrück (professor at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin ), who, detached from the official war history of the officers in the war history department , tried to anchor the subject in civil history , is to be seen as a milestone in the development of modern scientific military history .

Situation in the Federal Republic

The only professorship for military history in the Federal Republic was initially occupied by Werner Hahlweg , the nestor of the German Clausewitz research, at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster. He was a student of Walter Elze and was thus also in the tradition of Hans Delbrück. In the 1980s, Bernhard Sicken then held a corresponding professorship.

In the FRG , military history research is carried out in a special way by civilian employees and soldiers - see historian officer - at the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr (ZMSBw, formerly Military History Research Office (MGFA)) in Potsdam (formerly Freiburg im Breisgau). The ZMSBw is also home to associations of scientists such as the German Commission for Military History and the German Committee for the History of the Second World War .

Further university basic research is carried out by the Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich, namely by historians such as Christian Hartmann , Johannes Hürter , Peter Lieb , Dieter Pohl and Thomas Schlemmer , as well as outside the university by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (HIS), which, however, is not exclusively based on Specialize in military history. Furthermore, at the University of Tübingen, the Collaborative Research Center 437 "war experiences. War and Society in the Modern Era ”.

Since the end of the 1990s, a chair for military history / cultural history of violence has been endowed by the Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg), which was occupied by Bernhard R. Kroener until 2013 and then represented by Christian Th. Müller ; In 2016 Sönke Neitzel was appointed to the chair. From 2007 to 2016, the University of Potsdam, with the support of MGFA and ZMSBw, offered a master's degree in "Military Studies" with the content of military history and military sociology (professorship for general sociology). The master’s course "War and Conflict Studies" has existed since winter semester 2016/17

Germany's leading scientific journal is the military history journal (MGZ, formerly military history messages (MGM)), which was commissioned by the ZMSBw by Hans-Hubertus Mack and Michael Epkenhans in conjunction with u. a. Stig Förster , Bernhard R. Kroener, Reiner Pommerin , Hew Strachan , Hans-Erich Volkmann and Bernd Wegner .

Relevant research networks exist, for example, through the Working Group Military and Society in the Early Modern Age (AMG) around Ralf Pröve and Bernhard R. Kroener (University of Potsdam) and the Working Group Military History (AKM) around Stig Förster ( University of Bern ), but also through the more political oriented working group on historical peace and conflict research (AKHF).

A classic place of publication is the book series War in History , published by Ferdinand Schöningh .

The Werner Hahlweg Prize is a well-known science award for military historians . With the Wilhelm Deist Prize for Military History , a prize for young scientists was awarded in 2006 by the Military History Working Group.


In principle, the field of activity of a military historian is not protected. In the broadest sense, all publicists with military literary publications call themselves “military historians”. In the modern narrower and more serious sense, however, a military historian is also a trained and researching scientist (usually a studied historian with a focus on military history). As a result, history studies at a state university in Germany lead to the profession . The following courses have a special reference to military history, although the latter are more political science :

Well-known military historians

After the historian Sönke Neitzel (2007), the following well-known historians turned (again) to military history from the 1950s: Werner Hahlweg (1912–1989), Andreas Hillgruber (1925–1989), Walther Hubatsch (1915–1984), Hans- Adolf Jacobsen (* 1925) Gerhard Ritter (1888–1967) and Percy Ernst Schramm (1894–1970).

In a publication by the Military History Research Office (2010) the following military historians were presented as examples: Hans Delbrück (1848–1929), Walter Görlitz (1913–1991), Hans von Haeften (1870–1937), Andreas Hillgruber (1925–1989), Walther Hubatsch (1915–1984), Hermann Mertz von Quirnheim (1866–1947) and Hans Meier-Welcker (1906–1983)

The historian Ralf Pröve (2010) named the following historians who increasingly turned to the military in the FRG and the GDR: Werner Hahlweg (1912–1989), Johannes Kunisch (* 1937), Herbert Langer (1927–2013), Konrad Repgen ( * 1923), Hans Schmidt (1930–1998), Helmut Schnitter (* 1933), Winfried Schulze (* 1942), Bernhard Sicken (* 1939) and Rainer Wohlfeil (* 1927).


In contrast to its German neighbor, there is no university anchoring of the discipline in Austria. There are, however, close academic ties with the Army History Museum (HGM) in Vienna, which has had a military history research department since the 1960s. Previously this was housed with the General Troop Inspector. Museum director Johann Christoph Allmayer-Beck was the pioneer of Austrian research . Further basic research is carried out in the National Defense Academy (LVA) in Vienna. Observers judge the conditions in Austria as a disadvantage.


Walter Schaufelberger , who at the time held a double professorship in military history at the University of Zurich and the ETH Zurich, is regarded as the doyen of the discipline in Switzerland . At the University of Zurich it is currently possible to complete a doctoral degree in military history. Recently, military history could also be taken as a minor . The military academy responsible for officer training at the ETH Zurich (MILAK) has set up a lectureship in military history in the field of military science research and teaching. This was occupied from 2005 to 2012 by Rudolf Jaun , followed by Michael Olsansky .

Research is increasingly concentrated in the Swiss Association for Military History and Science (SVMM), where many graduates from the universities in Zurich and Bern ( Stig Förster ) work. This is headed by the general manager Dominique Juilland .


André Corvisier is considered to be the founder of the “nouvelle histoire militaire” in France . In the 1960s he knew how to combine the socio-historical and empirical methods with military history. Intended for the exchange between scientists and the military, the French Center for Military History was launched at the University of Montpellier in 1968 . Despite the increase in research over the years, it mainly focuses on the early modern period (see Ancien Régime ).

Anglo-American area


Gerard Anthony Hayes-McCoy is considered the nestor of Irish military history . He founded the Military History Society of Ireland in 1949 .

United Kingdom

The Chichele Chair in War History has existed in the United Kingdom at All Souls College at the University of Oxford since 1909, and is currently held by Hew Strachan . The renowned chair was initially held by journalists and officers, after the Second World War by academics and others. a. the doyen of modern British military historiography, Michael Howard .

The well-known John Keegan ( Royal Military Academy Sandhurst ) took a popular rather than an objective approach.

The Department of War Studies at King's College London , which has existed since the 1960s, is a central institution of military science research . This was founded by Michael Howard and was thus initially strongly influenced by military history. In 2014 the Sir Michael Howard Center for the History of War (SMHC) was established there. However, the department pursues an interdisciplinary approach and is built around the political science sub-discipline International Relations .

There are also other related professorships, courses and departments in the UK. For example, the Center for the Study of War at the University of Exeter offers the history master's degree "War and Society". More widespread, however, are the more interdisciplinary military science "war studies". At the University of Cambridge , the now highly regarded Lees Knowles Lectures in Military History were founded in 1912 .

Dennis Showalter and Hew Strachan founded the scientific journal War in History .

For military-historical work u. a. the Royal United Services Institute the Duke of Westminster's Medal for Military Literature .

United States

Significantly influenced by the work of Hans Delbrück and the doyen of European military history in the USA, Peter Paret ( Stanford University ), the university subject military history established itself in the United States after the Second World War . In addition, the ROTC training programs for reserve officers fostered anchoring of the discipline. The historians Edward M. Coffman ( University of Wisconsin – Madison ), Allan R. Millett ( Ohio State University ), Theodore Ropp ( Duke University ), John W. Shy ( University of Michigan ) and Russell Weigley ( Temple University ) are above all ) who made important contributions.

Visiting professorships such as the Harold Keith Johnson Chair of Military History at the United States Army War College and lecture series such as the Harmon Memorial Lectures in Military History at the United States Air Force Academy have established themselves.

The world's leading scientific association is the Society for Military History . It has published the Journal of Military History since 1938 and honors military historians for their life's work with the renowned Samuel Eliot Morison Prize .

For American military history, the $ 100,000 Pritzker Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing has been presented by the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, Illinois since 2007.

The American Historical Association awards the Paul Birdsall Prize for European Military and Strategic History.

Occupational fields

In principle, the military historian has access to similar professional fields as other specialized historians . The profession actually practiced depends to a large extent on the country-specific environment. For example, military historians work as publicists , in the media and in journalism , they are active in freelance and institutionalized science ( research institutions and universities , provided that focal points or chairs create an offer), are active in foundations or work in national and international organizations or in strategic and security policy advice. Corresponding military or civil professional fields can also be identified in the armed forces . Other important fields of activity are the work as archivist and librarian as well as curator in a museum specializing in military history (see, among others, the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden or the Bavarian Army Museum in Ingolstadt).

International organizations

Cross-border military historians u. a. connected through the International Commission on Military History (ICMH).

The Society for Medieval Military History ( De Re Militari ) is an international association for medieval military history. De Re Militari publishes the Journal of Medieval Military History and awards a. a. the JF Verbruggen Prize to military historians.


  • Peter Broucek , Kurt Peball : History of the Austrian military historiography . Böhlau, Cologne a. a. 2000, ISBN 3-412-05700-2 . (therein: lexicon-like bibliography of 130 people, p. 269 ff.)
  • Hans Ehlert (ed.): German military historians from Hans Delbrück to Andreas Hillgruber (= Potsdam writings on military history . Volume 9). On behalf of the German Commission for Military History and the Military History Research Office. MGFA, Potsdam 2010, ISBN 978-3-941571-06-8 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sönke Neitzel : Military history without war? A determination of the position of German military historiography about the age of the world wars . In: Hans-Christof Kraus , Thomas Nicklas (ed.): History of politics. Old and new ways (= supplement to the historical journal . NF Volume 44). Oldenbourg, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-64444-9 , pp. 287-308, here: p. 288.
  2. See Hans Ehlert (ed.): German military historians from Hans Delbrück to Andreas Hillgruber (= Potsdam writings on military history . Volume 9). On behalf of the German Commission for Military History and the Military History Research Office. MGFA, Potsdam 2010, ISBN 978-3-941571-06-8 .
  3. Ralf Pröve : Lebenswelten. Military milieus in modern times. Collected treatises (= rule and social systems in the early modern period . Volume 11). Lit, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-643-10768-8 , p. 107.