Historians Making News

This space highlights the accomplishments of historians. Members and non-member historians are encouraged to submit news about prizes, promotions, honors, tenure, and new jobs. Entries to be considered for inclusion on "Historians Making News" can be about yourself, another historian, or group of historians. AHA staff will review all submissions.

  • AHA Member Responds to Controversial Article in Nature Science Journal

    Sep 19, 2017 - 

    Earlier this month, the science journal Nature published an editorial claiming that the New York Central Park statue of gynecologist J. Marion Sims, who conducted medical experiments on enslaved African American women, stands as part of American history and thus shouldn't be removed. In response, several readers, including AHA member Monica Green (Arizona State Univ.), questioned the propriety of celebrating such a controversial figure. As a result of this public debate, the journal issued a follow-up statement admitting that publishing the original article was a mistake and clarifying that the removal of such statues "does not erase these individuals or their acts from history." For those who would like to learn more, the AHA has published a blog post that further explores the controversial history of Sims.

  • AHA Member Reflects on Recent Demand for Historical Knowledge

    Sep 07, 2017 - 

    Karen Cox, professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, wrote an opinion piece on CNN's website about the increased visibility of the historical profession in light of recent political controversies. Cox, like many of her colleagues, wrote articles on the history and symbolism of Confederate statues, and received feedback across the board. What she was most surprised about, however, were the e-mails "that neither lauded nor castigated me for my opinions" but instead were written by those curious about history, and who wanted to learn more. Cox concludes her piece with several suggestions for how historians can make their work more available to those who might not have received a formal education in history. 

  • AHA Members Receive NEH Grants for Humanities Projects

    Aug 17, 2017 - 

    The National Endowment for the Humanities announced earlier this month that it will award over $39 million in grants for humanities projects across the country. Among those whose projects were selected were a number of historians, including 21 AHA members. "The recently announced NEH grants are yet more proof of the Endowment's crucial role in supporting access to the humanities for all Americans," said Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance. "We are pleased to see that Congressional leaders value the NEH even as the administration has sought to eliminate its funding."

  • Grossman and Ayers on Leadership in Times of Unrest at College Campuses

    Aug 15, 2017 - 

    Jim Grossman, AHA executive director, and Edward Ayers, AHA member and president emeritus of the University of Richmond, were quoted in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education concerning the recent protests by white supremacists at the University of Virginia and the ensuing violence. Grossman and Ayers commented on what makes universities such popular targets for the far right and how university administrators can prepare for future disruptions. Because of their status as "open places" and the concentration of those with opposing views, college campuses will continue to find themselves at the center of similar events. "All you can really do is be ready," Ayers stated, emphasizing the need to protect students, faculty, and staff as a priority. 

  • AHA Member Discusses Historians and Controversy

    Aug 08, 2017 - 

    In a Guardian op-ed, AHA member Michelle Moyd and her co-authors Jennifer Evans and Yuliya Komska discuss the importance of historical controversies when it comes to the revival of democratic values. Pointing to the Historikerstreit as an example, an intellectual controversy that arose after the publishing of historian Ernst Nolte's 1986 article "The Past That Will Not Pass," Moyd, Evans, and Komska argue that, until very recently, the US has lacked the kind of status-quo-challenging academic that Nolte provided to Germany. This in turn has resulted in a lack of "a shared public memory or narrative about the past." However, the authors argue that recent political controversies, facilitated in large part by social media, offer historians a chance to revive the culture of debate. "The US variant of the historian's controversy and the widened public sphere that it brings about must recognize the productive potential of everyday history-makers," they write. "It must not just tap into it but fully harness it to seed a history that all Americans will want to fight over and for."

  • Jim Grossman on the Business of Government

    Aug 06, 2017 - 

    According to AHA Executive Director Jim Grossman, "The business of government is governance, not business." Grossman's essay on the subject, as published in the Huffington Post, emphasizes that a government, though superficially comparable to a business in certain ways, is a fundamentally different entity. "The President has referred to military commanders who work for the American people as 'my generals,'" Grossman states. "He thinks the Attorney General is his lawyer. That's true in a business, especially a family business where there aren't even shareholders to worry about. But in a democratic polity it's not even a matter of shareholders. It's the people, and the people are entitled to services, not profits."

  • AHA Member Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

    Aug 01, 2017 - 

    On April 1, 2017, the Renaissance Society of America awarded the Paul Oskar Kristeller Lifetime Achievement Award to AHA member Paul F. Grendler, professor emeritus of history at the University of Toronto. The award is presented in recognition of a "lifetime of uncompromising devotion to the highest standard of scholarship accompanied by exceptional achievement in Renaissance studies."

  • AHA Member Writes Op-Ed on Historians Acting as Pundits

    Jun 28, 2017 - 

    "Donald Trump might be disastrous for most Americans," writes Moshik Temkin, AHA member and professor of history at Harvard University, "but he has been a boon to historians." In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Temkin warns against the increasing trend of presenting history in "30-second blasts on cable news," often by way of analogies with similar historical figures. "This is not what historians should be doing. We teach our students to be wary of analogies, which are popular with politicians and policy makers (who choose them to serve their agendas) but often distort both the past and the present."

  • AHA Member Comments on Renewed Interest in History

    Jun 22, 2017 - 

    An article published by Quartz on the recent resurgence of interest in history on college campuses included comments by AHA member Alan Mikhail, Yale University history department's director of undergraduate studies, from an AHA Today blog post. The article cited a number of potential factors for the spike in popularity, such as confusion over the turbulent 2016 presidential election, the UK's unprecedented decision to leave the EU, and the presidential administration's own "less-than-tight grasp on history." The article concludes, "For those striving to secure the future of generations to come, history may be of much more use than biology or computer science." 

  • Newt Gingrich Weighs in on Trump Controversy "as a Historian"

    Jun 22, 2017 - 

    On ABC's This Week, Newt Gingrich (PhD, Tulane 1971) spoke "as a historian"concerning the Trump administration's dismissal of James Comey in the wake of recent investigations into the president's ties with foreign powers. "You have this legalistic nightmare trying to block the Trump presidency," Gingrich stated, "and you want me to believe this is all just random behavior. As a historian, I don't believe it." The American Historical Association encourages PhD recipients to apply their expertise to occupations beyond the professoriate. In keeping with that mission, Barbara Metcalf, past president of the AHA, extended an open invitation to Gingrich to join the AHA through a 2011 letter in the New York Times. "All of us seriously interested in history, as Mr. Gingrich clearly is, need the kind of 'continuing education' that the American Historical Association provides," Metcalf wrote. "All of us as American citizens, moreover, need figures in public life who demonstrate the breadth and open-mindedness that a historical perspective at its best encourages."