This new approach does seem to be enjoying some early success. In the past year, several prominent leaders of the historical community have publicly acknowledged that military history has been overlooked, to the academy's detriment—including, most notably, the editor of the influential American Historical Review, the source of Lynn's ire. "There has definitely been a realization among historians, maybe tied to 9/11 or Iraq, that war is such an intrusive and large-scale phenomenon that we can't shield ourselves from it," says Robert Schneider, a professor of history at Indiana University, who has been editing the journal for the past three years. "War is something that affects all of society. I think we've neglected some of the traditional subjects for too long."
These concessions are music to many military historians' ears, who hope they are the first steps back to broader academic acceptance. Hiring practices are notoriously hard to change, but here, too, there have been a few positive signs: This fall, Ohio State hired Col. Peter Mansoor, an aide to Gen. David Petraeus, the military commander in Iraq, to fill a vacant military history teaching position. A group of historians have discussed trying to create more room for themselves on campuses by raising funds from wealthy donors to start endowing more military history chairs around the country. (At $3 million or so per position, a tall order.) Lynn himself will be taking a place at Northwestern next year, where he's been welcomed with open arms after announcing his retirement from Illinois. "I hope we've turned a corner," he says, but he's not sure the fate of military history has been settled.
The stakes, with the war in Iraq dragging on, have certainly never been higher, but most historians are equally cautious about the future of their field. "Someone's going to be writing books about war—there's a huge demand for it," says Citino of Eastern Michigan University. "I personally would rather it be written by a scholar, instead of a re-enactor or your friendly neighborhood war buff." That decision, ultimately, will be left to the academy to decide.