Beyond Combat: History and the military’s other tasks
Fighting is a military’s core business, but it is far from its only activity. Militaries are often huge employers, control vast tracts of public land, and can operate at the forefront of social change. They have formed the basis of colonial rule, governed and punished conquered people, and played a role in domestic politics and industrial disputes. During wartime, militaries also recruit, train, publicise and influence strategy and diplomacy. Yet, many of these activities are written about only intermittently because the traditional focus on militaries at war has obscured their role as cultural and social institutions.
Histories of the ‘frontline’ continue to overshadow the study of ‘other’ vital military tasks. Activities such as ‘aid to the civil power’, oceanographic research, aerial surveillance as well as those tasks considered ‘new’, such as training foreign militaries and combating transnational crime, have traditionally received little historical attention. Similarly, activities such as the interaction between the military and service families, or the involvement of soldiers in diplomatic or other government activities, are often excluded from the study of armed forces. As such, these activities sit at the intersection of ‘traditional’ military history and the application of more varied historical approaches, such as those focussing on gender, race and economic imperatives. This conference addresses this gap by exploring military tasks beyond the battlefield. In particular, it examines issues such as the range of activities undertaken by militaries beyond combat operations, how these tasks are perceived by uniformed personnel and depicted by civilian commentators, and finally the significance of these issues for the broader study of uniformed services and armed conflict.
Beyond Combat: History and the military’s other tasks will run between 13-14 July at UNSW Canberra. The keynote speech, ‘Bring the family: Australia's overseas military communities and regional engagement, 1945-88’, will be delivered by Professor Christina Twomey, head of History in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University. The cost of attendance will be $70AUD. Spaces are limited, so please register now at the link provided below.