National History Center 2007

The year 2007 was an event-filled year for the National History Center, during which it continued programs it had launched earlier, took up some new projects, and made some organizational changes to integrate itself more closely with the American Historical Association.

Congressional Briefings

In its increasingly popular series of congressional briefings, the Center arranged for a presentation on April 27, 2007, by James Rodger Fleming, professor of science, technology, and society at Colby College, Maine, and public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In his presentation, which was cosponsored by the History of Science Society, Fleming delineated the historical perspective on climate change, starting from Thomas Jefferson and continuing through present-day policies.

Initiatives on History Education

During the year, the Center continued to engage with the issues and challenges of history education through various projects. The Center held a day-long conference on the theme “Reforming History Education: New Research on Teaching and Learning,” on June 12, 2007, in collaboration with the American Historical Association, the National Council for the Social Studies, the Newberry Library, and the Organization of American Historians to explore different dimensions of history education and discuss current research on teaching and learning and its impact on policy.

At this meeting, the working group that had been set up earlier to explore the historical context of developments in teaching and learning history, including such aspects as assessment and the role of history, presented in summary form the results of the research conducted by the group.

The Center also received a grant from the Teagle Foundation to study the role of history in liberal education (as a part of the foundation’s efforts to inquire into the role of various disciplines in the development of liberal education). Essentially the object is to determine how well the old-fashioned disciplinary major is contributing to the sorts of skills that are commonly thought to characterize liberal education—critical thinking, oral and written expression, a sense of values, civic engagement, and so on.

The working group set up by the Center (under the leadership of Stanley N. Katz and James R. Grossman) first met in March 2007 to design the project. Beginning with a survey of a stratified sample of very different sorts of college and university history departments, to have some notion (going beyond the personal experiences of the working group) as to what is being done “out there,” the group submitted a preliminary report at the AHA’s annual meeting in January 2008.

Seminars on Decolonization

Another continuing project is the series of seminars on decolonization in the 20th century, the second of which was held July 9–August 3, 2007, at the Library of Congress, a cosponsor of the series (which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation).

The seminar was led by Wm. Roger Louis, Kerr Professor and director of British studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and a former president of the AHA; Dane Kennedy (George Washington Univ.); Philippa Levine (Univ. of Southern California); Jason Parker (Texas A&M Univ.); and Pillarisetti Sudhir (AHA). The 15 participants in the seminar, who were selected from a large pool of applicants, were able to conduct research on various aspects of decolonization and to take part in discussions.

As part of the seminar, the Center arranged two public lectures: one by Crawford Young, author of The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective, and another by Wm. Roger Louis, who described European empires in their declining years and provided insights into the making of the new postcolonial states. Both the lectures were webcast by the Library of Congress.

Lectures on History of Foreign Relations

In October, the Center launched a new program of lectures in New York in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations. The first lecture in this series was delivered on October 24, 2007, by Ernest May, the Charles Warren Professor of History at Harvard University, who discussed surprise attacks in history—such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the attack of September 11, 2001.

The National History Education Clearinghouse

During 2007 the Center has become a partner in the work of the National History Education Clearinghouse, which has been created by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and the Stanford University History Education Group in partnership with the American Historical Association and the National History Center. The Clearinghouse is funded by a $7 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to be the principal online resource for all aspects of K–12 history education. The Clearinghouse is expected to provide information about history content of importance to teachers, effective and appropriate teaching materials, best history teaching practices, history education policy and research findings, professional development for history teachers, and Teaching American History projects. The web site also contains many interactive features and can link historians and teachers to relevant sites, literature, and programs worldwide.

The Center’s Board of Trustees

The three vice presidents of the American Historical Association joined the National History Center’s Board of Trustees and thus strengthened the relationship between the AHA and the Center.

The Board of Trustees of the National History Center now has the following members:

Wm. Roger Louis (University of Texas, Austin), chairman; James J. Sheehan (Stanford University), vice chair; Maureen Murphy Nutting (North Seattle Community College); Secretary; James M. Banner, Jr. (Washington, D.C.), treasurer; Karen Halttunen (University of Southern California), vice president of the AHA’s Teaching Division; Susan Ferber (Oxford University Press); James R. Grossman (Newberry Library); Robert L. Harris (Cornell University); Stanley N. Katz (Princeton University); Deanna Marcum (Library of Congress); Diane Ravitch (New York University); Teofilo Ruiz (University of California, Los Angeles), vice president of the AHA’s Research Division; David J. Weber (Southern Methodist University), vice president of the Professional Division; and Marilyn B. Young (New York University).