They Ain’t Going to Study War no More
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.
— Rudyard Kipling, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”
INDIANA UNIVERSITY as most large American universities has adopted the position that there are certain subjects, however actual, that should not be seriously studied. War would be one of them. British colonialism would be another. Why?
By “seriously” it is meant that there is a history course that makes an effort to assemble a factual framework rather than follow a politically defined narrative. That is nowhere apparent in flipping through the I.U. catalogue. I hope I’m wrong.
But ask about, say, expertise in a specific battle of the American Revolution and you are likely to get a specialist in Protestant settler atrocities against native American corn farmers.
Here, to give you a feel for the history faculty, is a sampling of thumbnails that the department lists as its experts on the 19th century (a period you would have thought was defined by war and colonial struggles rather than gender studies):
- “Senior Research Fellow, the Kinsey Institute for Research in sex, gender and reproduction; affiliate professor, Department of Gender Studies; adjunct professor, Department of American Studies.”
- “Empire; coloniality (sic); slavery; race and gender in Latin America; Caribbean history; digital humanities.”
- “Modern South Asia; world architecture and urbanism; British imperialism.”
- “Comparative labor and working class history; race and ethnicity; U.S. immigration history; Gilded Age and Progressive Era; U.S. women’s and gender history; U.S. cultural and intellectual history.”
- “Nineteenth century United States (social and cultural aspects); women and gender.”
You are right to suspect that there’s not much military history in those large woke brains. Nor is the faculty likely to have anything nice to say about the British Empire or American predominance.
Those two historical categories deal primarily with a group purged from Bloomington lectures. As historian Tami Biddle observes: “Many in the academic community assume that military history is simply about powerful men —mainly white men — fighting each other or oppressing vulnerable groups.”
And there’s no money in it. Indiana University receives boats full from China in the form of research grants (most of it for the hard sciences), plus graduate study support and foreign student tuition (see Margaret Menge’s essay in the Fall 2020 Indiana Policy Review). The Chinese Communist Party is seemingly uninterested in Americans learning about military history, especially its tactics and strategies.
In 2020, the head of Yale’s history department declared that it would no longer teach any history not based on “questions of gender, class and race, and only to the degree it confronted Western Civilization and modern capitalism.
“In centers of learning across North America, the study of the past in general, and of wars in particular, is in spectacular eclipse,” concludes the historian Max Hastings. And the director of the Center for National Defense, Thomas Spoehr, adds this, “The presumption in much of modern academia appears to be that: 1) only warmongers would teach about war; and 2) most military history, like much of history, is a tool of institutional oppression and control.”
As for colonialism, British historian Dan Hannan has put together a list of facts that would shock the Bloomington student body. Among them is that under British rule Kenya’s infant mortality declined from 400 deaths per thousand in the 1920s to 145 in the 1950s, and in Uganda and the Gold Coast it halved. Wakanda, please know, is just a comic book.
Try to find on the Bloomington campus the professor who will tell you that Great Britain in suppressing the Atlantic slave trade lost more than 5,000 lives in addition to giving up 2 percent of its national income annually for 60 years? That, by the way, remains unmatched worldwide in foreign policy expenditures — a point of historic interest, you would think.
“The idea that the British Empire was a way to loot the colonies would have been met with incredulity by the colonial office throughout the 19th century,” says Hannan. “It was forever fighting a rearguard action against taking on expensive new responsibilities at the behest of missionaries and do-gooders. If the empire was an exploitative machine, it was a spectacularly inefficient one.”
The economist Lord Peter Bauer spent a lifetime collecting data on those nations supposedly exploited by colonization. He found them economically ahead of other nations with comparable resources. The reason, Hannah says, is that the ideas the colonizers instilled — rule of law, private property, free speech, free association, free worship, free competition, habeas corpus — turned out to be advantageous to the colonized.
Those are ideas that Bloomington now finds troublesome — reason enough apparently to wipe clean the history of the white men who believed in them. — tcl