Department of Military History
Military History as a subject involves a thematic-chronological study of the evolution of warfare in different parts of the world and through the ages. The teaching of the subject entails, firstly, the provision of a frame of reference with regard to the causes, courses and consequences of past wars. The student is taught the development of the profession of arms, with reference to command and staff work as personified by the great commanders. Furthermore, the impact of technology and the development of weapons, the changing face of warfare on the strategic, operational and tactical level as well as the development of military thought and the relationship between armed forces and society are analysed. The development of the logistic, communication and intelligence systems of armies, navies and air forces during certain periods in history is also studied. Lastly, the basic principles of Military History are impressed upon the student, while s/he is also exercised in the writing of military history.
The primary focus of Military History is on a study of the evolution of war and its impact on society. The curricula are compiled in such a way that most of the subject matter deals with twentieth century warfare. Since the great conflicts of this century were in essence conventional wars, a considerable amount of attention is devoted to the study thereof. However, the focus of one semester (second semester of the final undergraduate year) is on the theory and practice of internal conflict, with an emphasis on the struggle for political power in South Africa. Military History is not only concerned with analysing campaign detail, but also with the preparation for war in the broad and more interdisciplinary context.
Therefore the way in which states use military power to achieve political objectives (the relationship between war and politics) as well as the reciprocal relationships between war and economy and war and society are also important areas of study.
As military history can be seen as the ‘corporate knowledge’ of the profession of arms, it provides the military leaders of tomorrow with a thorough understanding of the military profession and of warfare in all its dimensions. Before military leaders encounter the reality of conflict (something not of their own making, but they are called upon to manage it) they should enlarge their limited stock of experience with a study of military history. In so doing they may benefit from the recorded experiences of others. To this extent the study of military history may be said to have a didactic function, as its purpose is to provide the future managers of conflict with an informed vision about the reality of war and other forms of conflict, and simultaneously promote a culture of life-long learning among members of the armed forces and other students of military history.