Conference CFP: Beyond Combat: History and the military’s other tasks

UNSW Canberra, 13-14 July 2017

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.

Themes may include, but are not limited to:

– Embedding and advising

– The integration or exclusion of minorities and attention to cross-cultural interaction

– The management of military demography

– Military education and training

– Militaries and colonialism

– Engagement with communities as – part of ‘aid to the civil power’

– Commemoration and heritage

– Logistics and administration

– Service families

– Medical, psychological, and legal issues 

– Civil-military relations

– Militaries and the environment

– Peacetime domestic and international deployments

The organisers invite proposals for 20-minute (2,000 word) papers that engage with these issues and consider related themes. Proposals should be no more than 300 words, should include a short biography, and be sent to Dr Tristan Moss, or Dr Tom Richardson, by 15 April 2017.