The Enduring Nature of Military History

“I think almost all military history is actually a study of the human condition and what humans are cable of accomplishing, both for the greater good and, unfortunately, as a destructive force,” explains Bill Allison, new editor of the University Press of Kansas’s (UPK) Modern War Studies series.

UPK was founded in 1946, began publishing military history books in 1986 and has published more than 250 titles in its acclaimed Modern War Studies series since then.

“Kansas was one of the first university presses to publish in military history,” explains Editor in Chief Joyce Harrison. “The first book we published in the Modern War Studies series, America’s First Battles, was published in 1986. Our military history list started because of the connections between the outstanding military history programs at the University of Kansas and the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.”

In fact, America’s First Battles – a collection of eleven original essays by many of the foremost U.S. military historians, focuses on the transition of the Army from parade ground to battleground in each of nine wars the United States has fought up to 1965 – is the Press’ best-selling military history book. Nearly 46,000 copies have been sold and, according to Military Review, the book remains “Must reading for the serious student of history, whether military or civilian.”

Brian Steel Wills, director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University and author of 3 UPK books including Inglorious Passages; Noncombat Deaths in the American Civil War and The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman believes that the enduring popularity of military history has less to do with guns and ammunition, and more to do with people.

“Military conflicts have a dramatic influence on all aspects of life,” Wills explains. “I tell my students all the time that if you have an interest in music or the arts or civil rights, then you have an interest in military history. I think a great deal of interest in the Civil War revolves not around the actual battles, but around the stories of families. How did brothers who fought on opposite sides reconcile after the war ended? How did families move on and make a life after the fighting stopped? Those are fascinating, human-interest questions.”

Timothy B. Smith, who has written 11 books about the Civil War (including UPK’s Grant Invades Tennessee, Shiloh and Corinth 1862), echoes Wills’s thoughts about the draw of human-interest stories that develop during, and because of, times of war.

“Folks want to know what their granddaddy did in World War I and World War II,” he explains. “And for that matter, they want to know what their great and great-great granddaddy did in the Civil War. I think as vets age and pass on, there is a sense that we need to tell these tales in an effort to memorialize what they did. That’s why academic interest in the Civil War seems to be waning and more people are studying the world wars and the Vietnam and Korean wars.”

Harrison says that UPK’s goals with the Modern War Studies series are straightforward.

“Our mission is to advance knowledge, and our books have made and continue to make a tremendous impact, shaping the way historians and military professionals think about, study, and write about military history,” she says.

Bill Allison agrees that publishing military history is a two-part mission.

“A lot of people get into military history because of the guns and drums,” he says. “But the deeper you dive into any military conflict, the more layers, both military and personal, you find. I think that’s the root reason military history continues to fascinate people. There’s always one more aspect you can consider.”

UPK Names Bill Allison New Modern War Studies Series Editor

The University Press of Kansas (UPK) is pleased to that announce Bill Allison has been named the new editor of the acclaimed Modern War Studies Series. Allison is an accomplished scholar of American military history, specifically the Vietnam War, and a professor of History at Georgia Southern University.

Initiated in 1986, UPK’s Modern War Studies series publishes several books each year in military history, from the mid eighteenth century to the present. More than 250 titles have been published in the series, and series books have been awarded prizes by the Society for Military History, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, Naval Historical Foundation, Army Historical Foundation, Air Force Historical Foundation, Organization of American Historians, and American Historical Association, among others.

“Modern War Studies has been the gold standard for the field, still so among a growing number of really solid military history-oriented series from several outstanding presses,” Allison said. “From operational history to the non-combatant war experience to remembrance and commemoration, and a whole slew of areas of study in between, Modern War Studies has both reflected as well as shaped the amazing scale and scope of “military history” for over thirty years. I want to continue the work that Ted Wilson and Mike Briggs did so well for so many years. I have the greatest respect for both Ted and Mike – both have mentored me over the years, taught me a lot about not only the field and ‘doing’ history, but also about how university presses work and how book publishing has changed over the years.”

Allison earned his BA and MA in History at East Texas State University in 1989 and 1991 and completed his PhD in history at Bowling Green State University. His academic work is complemented by his accomplished writing career. He is author of The Gulf War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), My Lai: An American Atrocity in the Vietnam War (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), Military Justice in Vietnam: The Rule of Law in an American War (University Press of Kansas, 2007), and American Diplomats in Russia: Case Studies in Orphan Diplomacy, 1917-1919 (Praeger, 1997), and is co-author with Janet Valentine and the late Jeffery Grey of American Military History: A Survey from Colonial Times to the Present (Pearson, 2013), among other works.

Allison has presented and lectured at numerous conferences and universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, the University of Zurich, the Australian Defence Force Academy, the US Army Heritage and Education Center, and the USAF Air Command & Staff College. He is a former Trustee and Vice-President of the Society for Military History and has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Military History as well as editor for Routledge’s Critical Moments in American History series. Allison has served as a visiting professor at the United States Air Force Air War College, the University of Utah, the United States Army War College, and other institutions.

“Bill Allison is one of the most highly regarded military historians working today,” said Joyce Harrison, UPK editor in chief. “He has an exciting vision for the series, and all of us at the University Press of Kansas are thrilled that we’ll be working with him in the years ahead.”

Allison plans to hit the ground running.

“I believe continuing an emphasis on operational history is important – operational studies contribute to the field and often stimulate other scholars in turn to pursue projects that place those experiences on other contexts, be it from the perspective of place, time, race, gender, imperialism, institutional, theory, whatever,” he said. “Collectively, this is what is so exciting about military history and this series – obtaining balance among the range and variety of perspectives from scholars both seasoned and new to the discipline, from around the world, to bring this work together in this series to move us forward and get us thinking of more questions to explore.”

Born and raised in Texas, he lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with his wife Jennifer (Registrar – Wofford College) and three-year-old black lab Tucker.

Recommended Reading for CNN’s “Race for the White House”

Louis Fisher Discusses “Congress: Protecting Individual Rights”

9780700622115When asked which branch of government protects citizens’ rights, we tend to think of the Supreme Court—stepping in to defend gay rights, for example, in the recent same-sex marriage case. But as constitutional scholar Louis Fisher reveals inside “Congress: Protecting Individual Rights,” this would be a mistake—and not just because a decision like the gay marriage ruling can be decided by the opinion of a single justice. Rather, we tend to judge the executive and judicial branches idealistically, while taking a more realistic view of the legislative, with its necessarily messier and more transparent workings. In Congress, Fisher highlights these biases as he measures the record of the three branches in protecting individual rights—and finds that Congress, far more than the president or the Supreme Court, has defended the rights of blacks, women, children, Native Americans, and religious liberty.

After reviewing the constitutional principles that apply to all three branches of government, Fisher conducts us through a history of struggles over individual rights, showing how the court has frequently failed at many critical junctures where Congress has acted to protect rights. He identifies changes in the balance of power over time—a post–World War II transformation that has undermined the system of checks and balances the Framers designed to protect individuals in their aspiration for self-government. Without a strong, independent Congress, this book reminds us, our system would operate with two elected officers in the executive branch and none in the judiciary, a form of government best described as elitist—and one no one would deem democratic.

In light of the history that unfolds here—and in view of a Congress widely decried as dysfunctional—Fisher proposes reforms that would strengthen not only the legislative branch’s role in protecting individual rights under the Constitution, but also its standing in the democracy it serves.