Several folks have asked me about my experience acquiring a bachelor’s in military history. While I cannot answer what goes into a military history degree at every university offering it, the following highlights what it took for me to finish the degree at American Military University.
In short, it was 121 credit hours, which translated to 41 courses and 37 research papers, covering the prehistoric period to the twenty-first-century.
First, there are the necessary basics, which I handled through my local community college. These included 34 credit hours spread across 11 courses and 1 lab. While there is some variation out there, my courses looked like this:
- 2 English courses, which included Proficiency in Writing and Effectiveness in Writing
- 1 Humanities course – Introduction to Philosophy
- 2 History courses – American History to 1877 and American History since 1877
- 1 Literature course – American Literature from the Civil War to Present
- 1 Mathematics courses
- 1 Political Science course – International Relations I
- 1 Science course and lab – Introduction to Astronomy
- 2 Social Science courses – Introduction to Sociology and Introduction to Geography
I then switched to AMU and I was able to start my courses while my credits from the community college were in the process of transferring in.
The Core Requirements
The basics of the military history degree included the following courses.
- HIST300 – Research Methods in History — Every history major, regardless of concentration, has to take the basic course on the historical craft.
- MILH201 – Introduction to Military History — This survey course was aimed at introducing me to the famous wars, figures, philosophers, and writings.
- MILH202 – Survey of American Military History — This course focused heavily on the United States, but it began with 1492 to detail some of the early history of the colonies.
- MILH221 – War From Antiquity to 1700
- MILH222 – War from 1700 to the Present
- MILH303 – Readings in Military Leadership
- MILH304 – Readings in Military Philosophy
My university offered further concentrations and I selected “Early European Studies.” What this mainly did was ensure that all the classical courses were required for my degree.
- MILH362 – Ancient Military History — Brian Todd Carey taught this course along with Medieval Military History, providing some of his own textbooks for the course.
- MILH364 – Medieval Military History
- MILH363 – 17th and 18th Century Military History
- HIST301 – Ancient Greece
- HIST302 – Ancient Rome
- HIST303 – The Middle Ages
- MILH411 – Diplomacy and War I
- MILH412 – Diplomacy and War II
- MILS303 – Maneuver Warfare – This was the most interactive course aside from my astronomy lab. Along with reading extensively about great maneuvers of the past, we split up into groups to execute war games. The professor gave each group different units and objectives. In my group, we debated over our plan of attack. Then we submitted our plan to the professor who then showed the results.
- GEOG307 – Modern Military Geography
I also had to take at least 9 hours of courses focusing on a single war, but these could have easily been electives as well.
- MILH340 – The Civil War
- MILH325 – Amerindian Warfare
- MILH372 – The Persian Gulf War
With the electives, I strove to avoid any “Mickey Mouse” courses and instead take stuff that would help my academic career.
- ANTH100 – Introduction to Anthropology — My wife strongly recommended this one and it was well worth it. Anyone aspiring to study the history of warfare is ultimately studying the history of people and civilizations. This course broke down our notion of culture to its core, giving me a better appreciation for anthropologists and archeologists. It resulted in my picking up several books to research the topic more.
- HIST350 – History of the Middle East — This was another class that technically did not focus on war, but it was a timely, necessary course.
- MILS302 – Naval Warfare — My friend Brian is a maritime guy and he criticized my schooling for its lack of focus on navies. That led me to take this course, which gave me a heavy dose of Mahan and his theories of sea power.
- MILH318 – The French and Indian War
- MILH365 – The Napoleonic Wars and the Long Peace
- MILH337 – The War of 1812
- MILH355 – World War I
Most universities offer an independent study, which will allow the student to work with a single professor to research a thesis and produce a lengthy paper. I worked with Brian Todd Carey for 16 weeks to produce a 36-page paper entitled “City Razing as a Pacification Policy in Warfare.” There were an additional six pages of appendices and a 14-page annotated bibliography. My paper examined a large swath of epochs including the Assyrians, the Greco-Persian Wars, Alexander the Great, the Hundred Years War, the Aztecs, and World War II.
It was the most taxing thing I did during my undergraduate studies, but it was also one of the most rewarding. Independent studies are not required for a bachelor’s degree, but I strongly recommend history students to take advantage of one.
MILH498 – Senior Seminar in Military History
The final course again pushed me to write a lengthy paper. I focused on the Battle of Falkirk (1298) and how historians have interpreted its significance over the past century.
The whole program was reading and writing intensive, and it’s my estimate that I produced 37 research papers. I cannot begin to count all the books and articles I read during this period.
In December 2012, I presented my senior thesis at the Seventh Undergraduate Conference in Medieval & Early Modern Studies at Moravian College. This was another rewarding experience, as it gave me an opportunity to get in front of peers to present my research.
In addition, historical societies and academic journals became a part of my life. I joined the Society for Military History and the Society for the Study of Medieval Military History, of which I am still a member of both.
Finally, I took advantage of every opportunity to visit battlefields. Over the past four years, I have trekked through more than 30 battlefields across the United States, Mexico, Scotland, France, and Belgium, covering a timeline of 1297-1916. This included many repeat trips where I would bring friends, family, and coworkers to provide tours of the spots. For example, I trekked to Gettysburg 24 times, but never alone.
There it is from a high-level. Acquiring a degree in military history will vary depending on the institution and your level of commitment, but this should give you a rough idea of what you can expect.
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