Sunday, January 1, 2023

A Brick Wall.

I know, I often am blamed for my condescending attitude towards humanities and especially History, the way it is being written and taught in the Anglo-Saxon world. We all can recall Sir Anthony Beavor who, far from being real military historian, paraded himself as the man who has issues grasping force structure and basic math. And he is just one such "historian' who produced meme in Russia about gazillion "raped" German women.  Examples of such "history" and "historians" abound everywhere and in Russia too, be that Solzhenitsified caricature on 1930s-50s to Fomenko's famous "new chronology". History is no less about juxtaposition of the facts than it is about deliberate and highly responsible research. I was among many who applauded Kremlin's decision to close Russian archives to Western "historians" most of who basically "research" there for anti-Russian narratives, not for history.

But then there is another issue--by the year 2023 history as a scientific field ran, no smashed, full speed into the brick wall of technological and natural complexity of the world. And here is the piece in TAC, which I visit periodically, in which Sumantra Mairta makes a case for The End of (Academic) History. She reasonably complains that:

The academic discipline of history was always a courtly subject. One, it needs an emotionally detached and occasionally amoral temperament to be done right. There is a reason cardinals and monks were often great historians, as were adventurers and soldiers. Two, it needs patronization. History as a subject was never egalitarian, but in a paradoxical way it used to be a lot freer. Statesmen posted in far-off colonies during peak Victoriana were free to travel around and study a subject or a civilization. They did it as a hobby, were unbiased about their subjects, and were usually under no financial pressure to toe a political line, the human and social biases of those times notwithstanding. Those who were not in a position for that, but were still exceptionally talented or meritorious otherwise, were patronized individually or through an institution, yet with little scholarly pressure. That changed gradually after the Second World War, and especially with the rapid institutionalization and mass-democratization of the discipline in the 1980s and ’90s. 

The recent passing of one of the greatest, Corelli Barnett, symbolizes the completion of "democratization" of history, that is to say the destruction of it, and even in her short essay Maitra exposes a brick wall. 

I once wrote a short essay on the direction of historical and political research in which a couple of throwaway sentences caused some mild uproar. “One has only to look at the history departments in British Universities to see how seriously interdisciplinary research has diluted the discipline. Today, a historian of World War I studying fleet tactics is considered to be on an equal footing with someone exploring post-structural erotic subtexts in letters from the trenches.” The crisis in the discipline of history isn’t new and will only get worse...

Well, since the issue of WW I fleet tactics was touched, one has to point out immediately what researcher of said tactics can not do without, even for the primitive times of steam and steel. To REALLY study such a tactics one has to start with basic issues of navigation and maneuvering, which, even during WW I have been mechanized as much as possible but still required this:

And the mastery of operations with vectors and relative movement as was already a requirement for gunnery. Of course, issues of uncertainties are also nothing to be easily dismissed, and once one gets into the neck of the woods of WW I naval warfare, things become increasingly complex and have very little in common with Hollywood concept of war on the high seas. Yes, even for WW I. The issue of the combat control of fleets already then was horrendously complex, not least through developing Theory of Search and of what amounted to a primitive ISR. And then, of course, there is an issue of communications. Just see how Goeben escaped or what has transpired at Jutland. That is why they taught mathematics and physics in officer naval schools systematically already then. Precisely the subjects which are not taught in History programs and that is just WW I. 

You can have fun by reading on the evolution of gunnery for the US Navy since WW I--very light mathematical descriptions--here. And view those ever important errors:

And this is just scratching the surface, since one deciding to become a specialist in naval tactics even in WW I had to have a very good ability in Trigonometry and this thingy (spherical trigonometry is fun, not really;))

And all this is just scratching the surface. Once one gets into the history and fleet tactics of WW II, boy, this is where the shit hits the fan and one needs to have a good background in a lot of things, including, of course, ships automation and first electromechanical computers which ran ships and their weapons. 
Boy, this shit was fascinating. Not to mention courses in radar technology and, of course, ASW. So, you get my drift, right? And I am not even talking about war correlates which feed all those wonderful egg-headed Operations Research Groups in every military, with guys doing math, physics, electronics and mechanics non-stop. And it is already at this juncture where one must begin to understand WHY tactical level officers be them in the US, USSR/Russia or France, be them naval, army or air force have been and still are being fed a massive volume of a highly specialized STEM knowledge projected against the background of tactical and even operational realities of modern warfare, whose age unfolded fully in 1960s-70s.  

And then comes this--and this is where the brick wall becomes impenetrable and requires apart from extremely complex highly specialized knowledge training, also, very high level clearances.

All this is beyond the grasp of historians, and political "scientists", especially the ones who write and defend their Ph.D theses on the history of Queer movement and homo-eroticism. Two absolutely different animals, and things will not get better--they will get much worse for history as an academic field, because the history since 18th century is being written by engineers and people with natural science backgrounds. And those are very difficult degrees and research which goes into them. Hence, the brick wall and it is impenetrable. Just look at "reporting" on SMO by all those "voenkors" and Western media. Only real professionals know the real score and they ain't historians.

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