We have been talking a lot recently here about whether military history is thriving as a subject and how you and I got hooked into it, but what we have not considered is why?
Now ask most amateur or professional historians this question and I reckon the answers would be pretty similar - a version of "we need to understand the past to avoid making mistakes in the future" - an answer I myself would normally give. But thinking about this, is this really the truth?
Realistically, most of us (and I exclude those serving or working for the military) are not in a position to be able to properly apply the lessons of military history. Knowing you don\'t attack squares of Napoleonic British infantry with just cavalry could not help me create a new minisite for one of our books for example.
If you are in a position of power an understanding of past conflict might help. But is an understanding or love of Military History really driven by learning the lessons when we don't get to apply them? (How does that help us in our daily lives?)
Perhaps our love of military history has a more primeval, visceral or subconscious appeal to parts of ourselves we don't often recognise. Maybe there is comfort in knowing about the organisations, uniforms and shared experiences of soldiers which gives us a sense of belonging. Or do we, by studying military history, find a grown-up way of going back to childhoods full of soldiers, guns and comics? Or is a passion for studying organised conflict a way of channelling a part of us that likes violence?
I don't know but I am certain at least for myself that it is not just about learning lessons.
Occasionally a work scenario might occur where some obscure battle tactic might help but in reality the imagined thrill (not having actually done and respecting those who have done so, I\'m talking imagined here) of weapons and combat might be appealing on a different level? So why does it work for you? And if you are going to tell me that understanding the past helps us with our present I'm going to need examples...