Theodore Ropp

Ropp headshot
Born into an Amish family in Illinois, Theodore Ropp (1911-2000) graduated from Oberlin College in 1934 with a BA in history and in 1937 from Harvard University with a PhD, also in history. Faculty mentors who shaped his views of and approach to the study of war included Frederick B. Artz at Oberlin and William L. Langer at Harvard. After spending a year teaching at Harvard, Ropp moved to Duke University in 1938 where he taught and wrote until his retirement in 1980.

Ropp’s decision to become a military historian and his approach to studying global conflict were deeply influenced by the world of his youth. Having surely heard the horror stories about life on the Western Front in World War I from Frederick B. Artz, he became a member of the Oberlin Peace Society and served as its President in 1934. Like many of his contemporaries, his optimism about establishing a peaceful treaty-based post-World War I world began to wane. His faith in international agreements was replaced after World War II by the view that only the fear of mutual self-destruction by leaders of the two Cold War superpowers could stave off the future catastrophic use of nuclear weapons.

The publication in 1959 of
War in the Modern World, with its broad sociologically and technologically based approach to the subject, increased interest in Ropp’s work among scholars and military professionals. As a result, Ropp trained a generation of graduate students at Duke and was invited to teach at several military academies, including the US Naval War College, US Army War College, US Military Academy, National Military College (Singapore) and Royal Military College (Australia).

Following his retirement in 1980, Ropp remained active at Duke and in the academic life of his former students. As an emeritus professor, he was chosen in 1984 to serve as Duke’s first Ombudsman. In 1987, his Harvard doctoral dissertation,
The Development of a Modern Navy: French Naval Policy, 1871-1904, was published by the Naval Institute Press. Ropp died in Durham, North Carolina.

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War in the Modern World eBook cover