Studying Mars and Clio: Or How Not to Write about the Ethics of Military Conduct and Military History

Huw Bennett, Michael Finch, Andrei Mamolea, David Morgan-Owen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    In 'Savage Warfare: Violence and the Rule of Colonial Difference in Early British Counterinsurgency' (History Workshop Journal 85, 2018), Kim Wagner rightly argues that violence was a ubiquitous feature of colonial rule and that this fact must be acknowledged if we are to fully confront the legacies of empire, and their implications for conflict today.1 In presenting his case, however, Wagner makes serious historical errors as well as the sweeping accusation that military historians, especially those working in military education, are guilty of abandoning the scholarly standards of the historical discipline, perpetuating indifference to suffering outside the Western World, and having 'weaponized' history to justify military interventions and coercive and unjust treatment of non-white populations. These unsubstantiated accusations constitute an attack on the ethical and scholarly integrity of an entire field of history and the scholars within it. We have written this response to address the deficiencies in Wagner's assertions about the use of expanding bullets and colonial military conduct, the historiography of colonial violence, and the current state of what he calls 'parochial military history'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)274-280
    JournalHistory Workshop Journal
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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