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In 1982, Emeritus Professor Peter Dennis was tasked with establishing a military history journal – something he had no idea where to even start with. He would not be able to predict how far the War & Society Journal would come; internationally renowned and celebrating its 40th anniversary since its first publication.
“War & Society has provided, and continues to provide, an international platform for historians to test the field, to open new areas, and make available a wide range of studies that might otherwise pass by the wider readership in military history,” Professor Dennis said.
The journal has covered a wide range of topics since its beginnings in 1982, including Napoleonic, Imperial Russian, African and Asians military history, military welfare and many more.
The name, War & Society, was chosen to expansively cover war and history.
“I chose ‘War & Society’ in order to indicate that our interest was not just in technical matters of operational history but in the intersection between war and broader issues,” Professor Dennis said.
Reflecting on his experience founding the journal, Professor Dennis said “War & Society has moved far beyond our relatively modest aims in the early 1980s to become a respected player in the field. I take certain satisfaction in that.”
Formerly part of the Faculty of Military Studies at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Professor Dennis was tasked with developing the journal to increase the visibility of the department.
While he had no idea where to start, Professor Dennis took on the challenge to champion the journal’s early beginnings.
“I had no experience in the publishing world, apart from a distant but positive relationship with the publishers of a revised version of my doctoral dissertation,” Professor Dennis said.
“That experience brought home to me the value of close reading: I had been taught in graduate school that authors should prepare their own index, not just names but ideas and themes,” he said.
“I was determined that whatever else, the journal would seek to have impeccable editorial standards and to publish articles as quickly as due process allowed.”
Professor Dennis is firm believer in the value of books as the “gold standard of publication in the field of history”.
“Articles can be extremely useful in floating ideas, testing hypotheses, and writing limited analyses of carefully defined subjects,” Professor Dennis said.
“It is through books that the expansive nature of historical enquiry is best advanced.”
When asked what advice he would give to budding historians, Professor Dennis said “my advice to aspiring historians is to start writing early, test the market, and don’t be discouraged by the odd rejection.”
Current editor of War & Society, Associate Professor Eleanor Hancock said she is delighted that the journal has been able to survive and succeed over the past forty years.
“We have innovated with the format of the journal, publishing panel discussions and provocative think pieces. We are also commissioning leading historians to reflect critically on the underlying assumptions and theories of military history. We now regularly publish special issues focusing on cutting edge and innovative research,” Associate Professor Hancock said.
To celebrate 40 years of publication of War & Society, Emeritus Professor Peter Dennis has curated a selection of open access military research papers. To find out more and to access the papers, visit the Taylor & Francis site.