Monday, July 23, 2007

Professors of the History of War, Of Nazism, of Hitler...

There has been an ancient interest in War Studies (under one rubric or another).

However, I find that at least THREE universities now have a "Professor of the History of War" (Boston University in the USA, Oxford University in the UK, and the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands).

I have mixed feelings about this development.

On the one hand, in theory, it should be possible to study all kinds of subjects, even the worst kinds of evil.

On the other hand, the very act of studying anything enhances its status.

Especially if a Professorship is involved at an eminent university.

To illustrate: if we had a Professorship of Hitler Studies, would that not rather inflate the eminence of Hitler?

I know that such a Professorship exists in a certain novel, not sure if one or more of these exists in fact.

I do know that there are Professors of Nazi Studies (and cognate matters), and I am extremely uneasy about those too.

Professors of German Studies (or some such) are fine, even if they focus on Nazi Germany or on Hitler, because that puts the evil in a historical and geographical context, without raising the evil to eminence on its own.

Similarly, while we need to study War, I should have thought it better always to put war in the context of politics and international relations and so on, rather than focusing on war on its own and thus giving it needless and inapporpriate importance .

Conclusion: abolish Professorships relating to War and rename the relevant Professorships. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Ross Mahoney said...

You can not make such a comparison between war and Hitler. That is to misunderstand the whole purpose of these Profersorship. We have for too long ignored the subject of war in academia. It has been vilified as the realm of the military and in doing this academic history has ignored the most important aspect of human history, war. To understand this is to try and grasp human nature itself. Is this not a cause worth understanding then I am not sure there is much else to bother with. War encompases all aspects of human history, therefore, it is right that these chairs are established to further our understanding.