Why do I love military history? It is certainly a question I’ve been asked more than once in my life, and one that has become increasingly common in the time I’ve worked for Osprey Publishing.
Often, when I can’t really be bothered to have a discussion, I give the standard ‘those who don’t study history are doomed to repeated it’ response. It’s a valid answer, but for me, it is not an honest one. After years of careful consideration, I’ve come to realize that there are two reasons why I love military history.
The first is the drama. It is during wartime and especially on the battlefield where people display the best and the worst of humanity. True, military history is filled with cruelty, brutality, and a clinical indifference to human life. However, it is also filled with great acts of courage, camaraderie, and self-sacrifice. It is only when people are pushed to the absolute limit that they often display their true character and learn what is truly important. Or as singer/songwriter Dave Mallet poetically put it ‘We are closer to truth, in these dangerous times.’
The second reason, and the one I don’t share quite as often, is that warfare is the ultimate human competition. It is the greatest game. For me, it is fascinating to study the strategy and tactics employed by various commanders in order to best their opponent. The two teams are never equal. The board is always changing. The rules change according to circumstance, and there is a huge random element. But, in the end, it is still one group of people trying to beat another group.
I don’t often talk about this position, because some people can’t understand it. I am not a warmonger. I wish all current wars would cease and no others would ever be fought. I don’t believe I ever ‘glorify’ the evil that men do, but I do take what history has to offer and enjoy it the best I can.
In the end, I am learning about the history and heritage of my country and others. I am learning about the mistakes and sins of the past. I am remembering those that have gone before. This may not be ‘why’ I love military history, but if I can enjoy my hobby and reach this point, I think I’m doing all right.
So why do YOU love military history?