Historians Making News: 2017 Archive

  • AHA Members File Amicus Brief in Supreme Court Gerrymandering Case

    Oct 16, 2017 - 

    In preparation for the Supreme Court's hearing of Gill v. Whitford, a group of 15 historians, including 11 AHA members, filed a brief of amici curiae that laid out the history of equal representation in early American voting systems and why the Court should strike down Wisconsin's district maps. The historians are joined by numerous other organizations, many of whom agree that Wisconsin's 2010 redistricting plan contains a statistically significant bias towards the party that drew it. A decision on the case is expected by June 2018. 

  • Historians Named as 2017 MacArthur Fellows

    Oct 12, 2017 - 

    The MacArthur Foundation recently announced the 2017 MacArthur Fellows, which includes two historians, Derek Peterson (Univ. of Michigan) and Sunil Amrith (Harvard Univ.). Both scholars have close ties to the AHA: Peterson served on the 2015 annual meeting Program Committee and is an AHA member, and Amrith was awarded the AHA's 2014 John F. Richards Prize for distinguished scholarship on South Asian history. The AHA congratulates them for their achievements!

  • North Carolina Preservation Consortium Statement on Confederate Monuments

    Sep 28, 2017 - 

    In response to protests regarding Confederate monuments on public property, the North Carolina Preservation Consortium issued a statement laying out its recommendations for the "preservation of tangible and intangible heritage." Citing the historical context from which Confederate monuments arose, the NCPC recommends that "all monuments on public property in North Carolina that glorify the Confederacy should be relocated to appropriate museums, historic sites, and other cultural spaces that interpret American history honestly and completely." 

  • 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."

  • History Professor Rates Dunkirk on Historical Accuracy

    Jul 31, 2017 - 

    John Broich, historian of the British Empire at Case Western Reserve University, offered his thoughts on what Christopher Nolan's newest blockbuster Dunkirk got right, and where the movie took some artistic liberties. “In terms of accuracy,” Broich writes, “it rates pretty highly. There are no big, glaring historical whoppers.” However, while Broich’s article commends the way that the film portrayed the titular battle, he also points out a few things that were noticeably missing, such as the lack of Commonwealth forces, in particular those from India: “Their [the Royal Indian Army Service Corps] appearance in the film would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war.” Overall though, Broich’s review is positive, noting that “several scenes in the film must be as near a manifestation of that experience as can be safely had at the multiplex.”

  • 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."

  • AHA Member Honored for Work on History of Boy Scouts

    Jun 09, 2017 - 

    AHA member Nelson Block was recently awarded the Boy Scouts of America's Silver Buffalo Award, the organization's highest honor for adult volunteers. Block is one of the most prolific historians of scouting, having written two books and over 20 articles on the subject. In 2002, Block was named the Founder Gilwell Fellow by the Chief Scout of Great Britain in recognition of his contribution to the field of scouting history. 

  • AHA Member and Medieval Scholar Offers Insight into Appropriation of Viking History

    Jun 01, 2017 - 

    David Perry, AHA member and professor of medieval and Renaissance history at Dominican University, published an op-ed in the Washington Post about the recent use of the slogan "Hail Vinland! Hail Victory!" among white supremacist organizations. Perry's article offers some historical context for why such groups have begun to appropriate a rather obscure myth of Viking colonization, one which dates back to the 10th century. "For white supremacists," he writes, "the concept of Vinland asserts a historical claim over North America, stretching especially from the Northeast coast to the Pacific Northwest. They use the myth of Vinland to position themselves as righteous defenders in the wars of race and religion they believe are coming."

  • Former AHA President Honored by Society of American Historians

    May 30, 2017 - 

    Former AHA president and University of Wisconsin-Madison historian William Cronon was awarded the 10th annual Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Award for "distinguished writing in American history of enduring public significance" by the Society of American Historians. In addition to his field-defining work on environmental history, he has been a staunch defender of academic freedom and the role of scholars in the public sphere. Cronon was president of the AHA in 2012 and gave his Presidential Address on "Storytelling."

  • AHA President-Elect Provides Historical Context to President's "Witch-Hunt" Statement

    May 19, 2017 - 

    Mary Beth Norton, professor of history at Cornell University and AHA president-elect, was recently interviewed by The Atlantic about President Donald Trump's use of the Salem witch trials as an analogy for current federal investigations. "To me what's interesting about Trump's tweet is the use of the witch-hunt analogy, because it's a classic way in which somebody implicitly claims, 'I am being unfairly targeted,' because we all believe that the people who were accused of witchcraft in 1692 were unfairly targeted," Norton said. "It's not just that it's a massive attack on him, it's that it's an unfair and false attack on him, which goes along with everything else he's said."

  • AHA Member Pens Op-Ed on the Yale Graduate Student Hunger Strike

    May 12, 2017 - 

    Jennifer Klein, professor of history at Yale University, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times concerning the ongoing hunger strike of Yale graduate student teachers protesting the university's failure to recognize the graduate student union. Klein noted that an increase in a dependence on contingent faculty and graduate student labor, coupled with a decline in available tenure-track positions (as highlighted in the AHA's recent jobs data report), has created "a perpetual backlog of aspiring assistant professors, all competing for fewer jobs."

  • Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellows Announced

    May 10, 2017 - 

    The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has announced the 2017 class of Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellows. Two members of the AHA, Daniel Platt (Brown Univ.) and Zebulon Dingley (Univ. of Chicago), are among the 21 scholars to receive this honor. The fellows will receive 12-month awards of $25,000 to support their final year of dissertation work. 

  • ACLS Announces List of 2017 Dissertation Completion Fellows

    May 04, 2017 - 

    The American Council of Learned Societies recently announced the 2017 class of Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellows. Among the list of awardees are several AHA members. Each of the 65 fellows will receive a $30,000 stipend and up to $8,000 in research funds and university fees in their final year of dissertation writing. 

  • AHA Committee Chair Discusses History of the War in Afghanistan with NPR

    Apr 20, 2017 - 

    Aaron O'Connell, co-chair of the 2018 AHA Local Arrangements Committee, recently spoke on NPR about comparisons between how the US has handled the Afghan conflict and the US strategy during the Vietnam War. O'Connell, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, remarked, "the people who wrote our tactics for Iraq and Afghanistan were scholars of the Vietnam War. They were men who had written PhD dissertations on the war in Vietnam. And yet, we repeated the errors over and over again."

  • AHA Member Encourages Historical Context in Discussions of Immigration

    Apr 19, 2017 - 

    AHA member Una Cadegan, professor of history at the University of Dayton, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post that examines the "myth of immigrant self-reliance," the notion that early 20th-century Irish and Italian immigrants "pulled themselves up by their bootstraps without 'any special favors'" and that other racial groups "should do the same." Cadegan concludes that "rather than reinventing a mythical past about self-reliance, it's time to pay it forward."

  • AHA Members among List of American Academy of Arts & Sciences Fellows

    Apr 12, 2017 - 

    The American Academy of Arts & Sciences announced the 237th class of new members, including several AHA members. Lonnie Bunch of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Takeshi Hamashita of Sun Yat-sen University, John McNeill of Georgetown University, and Dana Robert of Boston University will be inducted at the academy's ceremony on October 7, 2017, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, along with over 200 other leaders from the humanities, sciences, arts, business, and philanthropy.

  • Society for History in the Federal Government Award Winners

    Apr 11, 2017 - 

    The Society for History in the Federal Government has recently announced the winners of its annual prize competition. Among the awardees are three AHA members: Daniel Feller, Emily Merchant, and J. Samuel Walker. The awards will be presented at the society's annual meeting on April 13 at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

  • AHA Member Wins 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History

    Apr 10, 2017 - 

    Heather Ann Thompson, professor of history at the University of Michigan and AHA member, has won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History for Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. The committee found that Thompson's book "sets high standards for scholarly judgment and tenacity of inquiry in seeking the truth about the 1971 Attica prison riots." Watch Prof. Thompson discuss her work on the history of incarceration at a National History Center Congressional Briefing. 

  • National Council on Public History Releases Employers' Report

    Apr 06, 2017 - 

    The National Council of Public History, in conjunction with the American Historical Association and several other historical societies, has just released the results of their Public History Employer Report and Survey, which was developed to address the concerns about job prospects for public historians. The results can be found on the AHA's website.

  • 2017 ACLS Fellows Announced

    Mar 31, 2017 - 

    Fourteen AHA members are among the 2017 ACLS Fellows recently announced by the American Council of Learned Societies. This year the ACLS raised the stipend level for assistant and associate professors to $40,000 and $50,000, respectively. The fellowships support scholars for six to twelve months of full-time research and writing. 

  • Reddit History Forum Takes a Stand for the NEH

    Mar 31, 2017 - 

    The popular Internet history forum, r/AskHistorians, a group within Reddit, recently broke one its cardinal rules forbidding discussion of current events (defined as 20 years old or less) to come out against the proposal in the Trump administration's budget blueprint to eliminate the National Endowment for the Humanities and other federal agencies supporting the humanities. "We don't get political for a particular candidate . . . we get political when good history matters," the moderators stated, urging the nearly half-million subscribers to contact their congressional representatives and voice their support for the NEA and NEH.

  • Former AHA President Featured in OC Weekly Profile

    Mar 20, 2017 - 

    Vicki Ruiz, professor of history at UC Irvine and former AHA president, was recently profiled in OC Weekly.  Recounting her youth in Florida, Ruiz noted that "when it came to Latinos, all they taught us ... was Ponce de Leon and the Alamo," thus inspiring her to "bridge the narratives that I learned at home with what I learned at school."

  • AHA Member Speaks about Development of Clio App

    Mar 17, 2017 - 

    David Trowbridge, professor of history at Marshall University, was featured in an article by the Herald Dispatch of Huntington, West Virginia, where he spoke about his inspiration for the Clio platform, a digital app that connects users with nearby museums and historical monuments. Seth Denbo, AHA director of scholarly communication and digital initiatives, was also interviewed and commented on the advantages that apps like Clio can offer both inside and outside the classroom. "Having information you know is good quality and has been read by people who know the history" is a useful tool to have in an age where misinformation about the past is common, Denbo said.

  • AHA Members Sweep 2017 Bancroft Prizes

    Mar 17, 2017 - 

    Columbia University recently announced the awardees of the 2017 Bancroft Prize for works on American history. AHA members Andrés Reséndez (Univ. of California, Davis), Heather Ann Thompson (Univ. of Michigan), and Nancy Tomes (Stony Brook Univ., SUNY) are this year's recipients of the prestigious award. Each prize carries with it an award of $10,000.

  • AHA Member Offers Historical Perspective on the Role of the EPA

    Mar 07, 2017 - 

    AHA member Steven Conn, the W. E. Smith Professor of History at Miami University in Ohio, published an op-ed in the Dayton Daily News criticizing the current administration's proposal to cut funding for the EPA. Conn outlines the historical significance of EPA regulations and reminds readers that if the administration's proposals are put into action, "the laws will still stand, but no one will be around to enforce them."  

  • Historian Publishes Op-Ed on the Powers and Limitations of Executive Orders

    Mar 07, 2017 - 

    George Washington University professor Matthew Dallek published an op-ed in the New York Daily News on the history of executive orders, a topic he recently discussed as a participant in  the National History Center's Congressional Briefing. Dallek highlights a number of past executive orders and their varying degrees of success. "The power of a presidential pen has been restricted by the fast-shifting politics of the times," Dallek writes, and "for the most part, executive orders have not become, as critics of the imperial president have feared, the friend of the authoritarian."

  • Desecration of Cemetery a Repercussion of the Unfulfilled American Dream

    Feb 28, 2017 - 

    AHA members Eric Sandweiss, Carmony Chair of History at Indiana University and his sister Martha A. Sandweiss, Professor of History at Princeton University, recently penned an op-ed about the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in their hometown of University City, Missouri. Their article discusses the 20th-century "upward mobility narrative of the American Dream," which is complicated by the historical record. "The upending of the narrative in our own backyard, the intentionally symbolic damage done to the monuments to our own ancestors' unheralded search for peace, reminds us that History will always find a way to come home."

  • Historian Comments on the Shifting Role of U.S. in International Affairs

    Feb 24, 2017 - 

    Kristin Hoganson, professor of history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and AHA member, recently published an op-ed in the News-Gazette about "the end of the American Century." Hoganson offers a critique of an increasingly isolationist sentiment from the new administration, one that runs counter to previous decades of foreign engagement. While recognizing the repercussions that have resulted from America's place at the forefront of world affairs, Hoganson rejects the administration's calls of "America first," stating that "no wall, no matter how high, can make us safer than the world order that our president is ripping up."

  • Whiting Foundation Announces Recipients for 2017 Public Engagement Fellowship

    Feb 24, 2017 - 

    The Whiting Foundation has announced the recipients of its inaugural Public Engagement Fellowship, a program to support humanities scholars "to engage directly with the public beyond the academy and infuse the nuance and complexity of the humanities into our shared culture." Each of the eight fellows will receive $50,000 to pursue a wide-ranging assortment of projects including a documentary on Muslim immigrants during the Asian Exclusion Era and a work of theater about the history of Latino men in the Vietnam War. 

  • Colgate History Department Issues Statement Affirming "A Respect for Truth and Facts"

    Feb 21, 2017 - 

    The History Department of Colgate University, an institutional member of the AHA, has released a statement affirming "a respect for truth and facts" among the "core principles" anchoring the work of educators and scholars. Noting the importance of "informed debate" and "questions of objectivity and subjectivity," our colleagues at Colgate emphasize that free inquiry also relies "on the basis of vetted and broadly accepted fact" as opposed to "defiant, dishonest speech that aims at rhetorical and political control." The department has also affirmed its support for freedom of movement without religious or ethnic restrictions, recognizing "the rich contributions of immigrants" as "a matter of fact."

  • AHA Member Writes Op-Ed in Support of the Humanities

    Feb 17, 2017 - 

    Dianne Harris, dean of the College of Humanities and a professor of history at the University of Utah, published an op-ed in the Salt-Lake Tribune about the importance of the humanities for understanding what it means to be an American. Countering those who would propose to cut or eliminate funding for the National Endwoment for the Humanities, Harris argues that this work "is essential to the health of our democracy because it supports the development of our educated citizenry."

  • Historians Speaking Out on Immigration History

    Feb 06, 2017 - 

    Historians, including AHA members, have been bringing historical perspective to public discussions in response to President Trump's executive order limiting entry into the US. AHA member Paul A. Kramer (Vanderbilt Univ.) explores the competing impulses of both pluralism and xenophobia throughout US history in an article for Slate.com. Stephanie Hinnershitz (Cleveland State Univ.) explains the "two faces" of American immigration history for Cleveland.com. The Immigration History Research Center, along with the AHA-affiliated Immigration and Ethnic History Society, has curated #ImmigrationSyllabus to bring important historical analysis and primary sources into classrooms (and beyond). These are a few of the many ways historians are bringing vital insights to current policy. You can also read the AHA’s statement condemning the executive order from both an institutional and historical perspective.

  • 10 Ways to Support Students Facing Immigration Crises

    Feb 01, 2017 - 

    Anita Casavantes Bradford, chair of the AHA's Graduate and Early Career Committee, joined her colleagues at the University of California, Irvine, to author advice for faculty members and administrators to assist students negatively affected by President Trump's executive order restricting entry into the United States and compelling state and local law enforcement to actively enforce federal immigration law. Considering how many colleague students have a documentation status that may put them at risk, Bradford and her co-authors provide suggestions for the higher ed community to provide support. Read the article from InsideHigherEd.com.

  • Why Trump is making Muslims the new Chinese

    Jan 30, 2017 - 

    In an opinion piece for CNN, Mae Ngai (Columbia Univ.) makes the historical comparison between President Donald Trump's recent Executive Order on immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Made ostensibly on the grounds of national security, the Act also displayed "palpable animus" toward an ethnic group. Responses to the Act in the late twentieth century changed immigration law to prohibit blatant discrimination. But "it remains to be seen how far we have really come."

  • The Grisley Work of VA Secretaries

    Jan 19, 2017 - 

    Jessica Adler, assistant professor of history at Florida International University, composed a piece for The Hill on the nomination of David Shulkin as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

  • NEH Grants Support Historians Expanding Access to the Humanities

    Jan 13, 2017 - 

    Two dozen AHA members, along with many other historians, received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities in recent weeks. Among other groups, this round of awards supports cultural programs for disadvantaged populations; digitization of events at local cultural institutions; and researchers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. Find the full list of grant winners on the NEH website.