Program Committee 2000
By nearly all accounts, the annual meeting in Chicago in January 2000, was a grand success. Attendance was the highest ever for a meeting in the Midwest, helped along by the weather: warm, balmy, and almost spring-like. Inside the meeting rooms the spirit of intellectual enthusiasm was high, as many participants found the well-balanced program to their liking.
Enthusiasm was particularly high for the roundtable discussions led by senior scholars in a wide variety of fields—democratic traditions and revolutionary traditions, African American history, Balkan history, labor history, African history, the Korean War, the Atlantic world, women and gender history, and oral history. Also greatly appreciated were the lunchtime "Conversations" conducted by 10 past presidents of the AHA. As the Program Committee hoped, these and many other sessions offered scholars the opportunity to reflect on the state of the discipline and the profession at the beginning of the 21st century.
This process of reflection began with Thursday night's Plenary Session, during which four distinguished members of the profession—Carol Gluck, David Levering Lewis, Charles Maier, and Hans-Ulrich Wehler—gave us their perspectives on the history—and historiography—of the 20th century. Other sessions pondered the significance of the past century with respect to the idea of progress, the impact of widespread travel on the politics of identity, the practice of intellectual history, and the emergence of world History as a research field. Other sessions looked to the future and various professional issues, exploring the impact of electronic media on the teaching of history, the outlook for scholarly publishing, the increasing number of women in the historical profession, the new labor system within the academy, and the prospects for postacademic careers.
Religion emerged as a topic in many sessions, in part because of the extensive number of panels organized by affiliated societies, especially the American Catholic Historical Society and the American Society for Church History. But many AHA panels also dealt with religious themes, exploring such topics as gender and the Gregorian Reform, women's religious experiences in the early modern world, the church on the eve of the Reformation, and religious conflicts in the Islamic world. A number of AHA panels also addressed questions of interest to historians of Latin American history, ranging from discussions of state projects and civil society, colonial Mexican economic history, Gender history, and a very interesting session on text and flesh in early Brazilian history.
In the panels devoted to the United States, many papers reflected current historiographic perspectives, focusing on issues of culture, gender and sexuality, and race. But there were also enlightening discussions on science and technology, federal urban policy, labor policy, the age of Jefferson, and—in no fewer than three panels—various aspects of the Civil War. Among the European panels, two dealt explicitly with the construction of the cultural and geopolitical concept of central Europe and a number of other panels explored religious and cultural developments in that region.
Although—as usual—participants in the annual meeting mostly attended sessions in their scholarly specialties, a significant number ventured into panels in other fields. This testimony to the broad focus and stimulating character of many of the presentations suggests that, whatever the problems of the profession, the outlook for historical scholarship in the 21st century is bright indeed.
James Henretta and Claire Moses (both at the Univ. of Maryland at College Park) were co-chairs of the 2000 Program Committee.