CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In the study of history, certain events stand out. If you’re examining the Civil War, for example, the Battle of Gettysburg will likely appear most often in textbooks and lectures. If it’s World War II that interests you, D-Day is a popular topic of choice.
But these events, while important, are just a sampling of history. What about the contributions Native American soldiers made during World War I, or the role of African-Americans during the American Revolution? For two Austin Peay State University professors, it’s sometimes frustrating locating textbooks that include the lesser known but equally important historical events.
“Having taught these classes for years, we know that there’s kind of been this void,” Dr. Christos Frentzos, APSU associate professor of history, said. “It would be great to have a book with this other information, but we can’t find one.”
“We have good books,” Dr. Antonio Thompson, APSU assistant professor of history, said, “but they don’t have this or that. I thought, ‘if I could write the book, what would I include?’”
The professors didn’t have any trouble compiling a list of underrepresented history topics. When they presented that list to the academic book publisher Routledge Press last year, Frentzos and Thompson were contracted to edit a new groundbreaking, two-volume work – “The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History.” Once published, the textbook could be used to expand the study of history in college classrooms across the country.
“We’re taking important topics that may not typically be covered in some other works, and we’re highlighting those,” Thompson said. “For example, Roosevelt, Churchill and the second front during World War II sometimes doesn’t get the look that it deserves. Or the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan – incredibly important. And then there’s American women of World War II. Someone reading this, they might have heard of this before, but they don’t know the context and the detail.”
Volume I of the work will feature about 40 essays from both renowned historians and up-and-coming academics, focusing on the colonial period in America up to reconstruction. Volume II will include another 40 essays dealing with American history from 1865 to the present War on Terror. The books will be divided into thematic sections, with a historiographical essay introducing the time period followed by three or four topic essays.
“We also have made an effort with these essays to include what is sometimes called new military history or new social history, trying to highlight contributions made by people that didn’t historically get a lot of attention,” Frentzos said. “For instance, the contribution of women on the home front in World War II. The contribution of women in the Gulf War. The contribution of African-Americans in the Civil War. The contribution of Native Americans in World War I. These are all essays we have that highlight the lesser known aspects.”
One of the interesting features of the work is that it will include essays on both diplomatic and military subjects. Traditionally, the two subjects are separated into different textbooks.
“It’s hard to separate diplomatic and military because they go hand in hand,” Frentzos said. “You can’t have a war or some type of military conflict without the diplomatic side of it, and so we thought there aren’t a lot of readers that combine both of these things.”
For the last several months, the two APSU professors have worked developing outlines for the two volumes, soliciting submissions, editing essays and writing their own contributions for the books.
“With a project like this, it’s very big,” Thompson said. “There’s not just a lot of reading, writing and editing. There’s a lot of management of people. You’ve got to be collegial and be a team player and work with others. I’m very pleased with how we have approached this, and with the progress.”
The book is set to go to the publisher next fall, with copies of the two volumes available sometime in 2013. For more information on this work, contact Thompson or Frentzos at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
PHOTO CUTLINE: APSU associate professor of history Dr. Christos Frentzos and APSU assistant professor of history Dr. Antonio Thompson discuss the new, two-volume history textbook they are developing. (Photo by Beth Liggett/APSU)