Perspectives: On Turning Forty
Arnita A. Jones, January 2002
With this issue of Perspectives we mark the beginning of the 40th volume of AHA's newsletter. Originally published in pamphlet format five times a year, the "AHA Newsletter" (its name was not changed until September of 1982) was instituted to report personal news of members, educational developments in the profession, job ads, and news of the AHA and other historical organizations. The entire first volume totaled 32 pages.
Some things about the Association's professional newsletter have changed little. Then as now, there was news of government funding to improve K-12 teaching, although in 1962 the U.S. Office of Education was offering a new program "to improve research, instruction, teacher education, and the dissemination of information in social studies," while the current U. S. Department of Education "Teaching American History" program specifically excludes social studies. In 1962 the AHA also announced receipt of a Ford Foundation grant to study bias in textbooks, while its Committee on Teaching announced the publication of six new pamphlets to be issued by the Service Center for Teachers of History.
The AHA's Committee on the Historian and the Federal Government met in 1962 to consider the publication of government documents and the conditions of work for government historians. A new AHA Task Force of Public History will be meeting for the first time in 2002. The American Council of Learned Societies announced publication of a new edition of the Directory of American Scholars in 1962; in 2002 it received the Waldo G. Leland Prize for its new American National Biography. The 1962 annual meeting in Chicago drew three thousand registrants and boasted a 21 per cent increase in the number of job listings for the "Professional Register" held there.
Twenty years later, when the AHA Newsletter became Perspectives, an editorial took note of its expanded coverage of Association activities as well as articles and columns on issues related to scholarship and the profession. Another column that year, a reprint from a Washington Post essay by Jonathan Yardley, bemoaned the focus of historians on specialization at the expense of writing for the more general reader. And so it goes.
Today's Perspectives helps a new generation of historians confront some old and some new issues. Published nine times a year and available electronically, Perspectives can now provide more timely information about professional issues and opportunities. And we report on demographic and economic issues with more frequency and sophistication. The focus on providing information about teaching at all levels continues as well, along with reports on new venues for scholarship and new research tools and opportunities. As the volume of submissions of articles has grown over recent years we have begun a transition from a system of contributing editors to a new editorial advisory board that will provide general guidance and policy advice. We thank all those who have worked on the Newsletter/Perspectives in the past and look forward to serving our members through this professional forum in the future.
—Arnita Jones is executive director of the AHA.