Jonathan Roth

Jonathan Roth

Professor, History

What research questions currently preoccupy you?

At present I am working on a book on Roman counterinsurgency. The main issue I am exploring is whether the modern understanding of counterinsurgency (and revolution in general) can be applied to ancient times (i.e. are they universal)? Next in line is a textbook on military technology and its role in world history. The issue here is whether "military revolutions" are real or simply a cultural affect, and how new military technology impacts different societies (again the issue of universality).

What personal factors contributed to your study of military history?

Part of this is the influence of my father, a History Professor who had a long military career, but also my own interest and experiences, including my six years in the Army National Guard. In addition, there is both a historiographical drive, my opposition to postmodernism and what I see as a kind of quasi-Marxist attitude (not really pacifistic, but lauding “revolutionary” war and criticizing “imperialist” war). Tied to this is the idea of cultural relativism and Third Worldism, which I think has been very harmful not only to academia, but hurts the very people it purports to support.

What has been most challenging in your research?

My interests tend to be too broad, and I find it difficult to focus on the deep study necessary to support general theory. This has resulted in many regrettable mistakes. Ars longa, vita brevis.

How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?

One advantage is the benign neglect which has allowed me to pursue various topics without being criticized for “poaching” or too much of a generalist. On the other hand, SJSU shows an almost criminal negligence in terms of support for research. There really needs to be a .2 for research. Otherwise, we will continue our slide into mediocrity.

A hidden (research) talent:

Intuitiveness and combativeness.

One book that changed your life (or research) and why:

David Hackett Fisher's Historian's Fallacies. This is the first book that got me excited about the craft of history.

A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:

Journal of Military History.

Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:

Use our library. It has many hidden treasures.