Publication Date

May 1, 1996

The 1996 AHA annual meeting was marked by extraordinarily good spirits in spite of—or perhaps because of—the dramatic blizzard that soon snowed us in. The Program Committee would, however, like to assume that the many appreciative comments heard from participants about the quality of the panels they attended were also a cause. We sought to promote an expansive vision of history and invited scholars to consider the theme, "Polities in Flux: Citizenships in Transition," which brought a high quality of proposals. While the total number of proposals was larger than last year (229 compared to 210), only 185 were full-panel proposals and 44 (19 percent) were single papers, for five of which we generated interesting and original panels. The extra effort was worthwhile and may have helped newer, less well-connected scholars to be heard. However, the trend of the last three years for full proposals bears watching: 1994—360, 1995—210, 1996—185.

The work of the Program Committee was made positively enjoyable by the acute and good-humored intellectual exchange among committee members as they expressed superbly informed judgments in the selection of panels. We were fortunate to have the experience of Edmund Burke III (Univ. of California at Santa Cruz), Thomas J. Davis (American Bar Foundation), Barbara Alpern Engel (Univ. of Colorado at Boulder), Harvey Green (Northeastern Univ.), Donna Rogers-Beard (Clayton [Mo.] High School), David Harris Sacks (Reed Coll.), Patricia Seed (Rice Univ.), Susan Mosher Stuard (Haverford Coll.), Anand A. Yang (Univ. of Utah), Margaret Strobel (Univ. of Illinois at Chicago), and Michael J. Galgano (James Madison Univ.). Strobel and Galgano are chair and cochair of the 1997 Program Committee. We were also greatly encouraged by the direct interest taken by Sandria Freitag, the executive director of the AHA. And everyone who has ever done this work knows how much he or she owes to the staunch support of Sharon Tune, the AHA convention director, whose unfailing reliability and moral support are legendary.

We were honored and proud to open the Atlanta meeting with a plenary session—"Entitling Citizens: Retrospectives and Prospects of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States"—featuring Julian Bond (Univ. of Virginia) and Mary Frances Berry (Univ. of Pennsylvania) and chaired by Sara M. Evans (Univ. of Minnesota). The audience was transported and we heard about it for the rest of the conference. The second plenary session, "Polities in Flux: Citizenships in Transition," addressed the conference theme directly. It examined both extremes of current pressures on the historical nation-state: one speaker, Richard Barnet (Inst. for Policy Studies), delivered "Globalization: Historical Trends," and the other, Misha Glenny (Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Visiting Fellow) presented "Fragmentation: The Case of Yugoslavia." Nikki Keddie (Univ. of California at Los Angeles) chaired the session.

Thirty-one percent of the chairs returned session reports, a decline from last year's 45 percent. However, these reports plus the attendance tally prepared by the Local Arrangements Committee allow us to make some generalizations about the program. One of these is that the top 10 of the 46 best-attended panels were about teaching and the new technologies, indicating that this is a leading interest of participants at this time. This was supported by some comments of the chairs: "The number of people in the audience exceeded our expectations. In fact, I found this to be the case with all of the teaching-oriented sessions at the 1996 AHA. … Teaching sessions are very popular at the AHA, and they deserve larger rooms." The next Program Committee ought to take this into account. Another chair commented, "The fact that several folks in the audience expressed hope that future such sessions would occur indicates AHA members' interest in teaching approaches and methods." The next best attended sessions were five panels on women and gender, followed by four each on African American and German history. The North American Conference on British Studies also has a large and loyal following—three of its panels were among the best-attended panels of the meeting.

Our theme seemed to encourage comparative panels, of which we had 37. These, too, were popular. One chair commented, "I found such interdisciplinary panels-those bringing scholars together across customary geographical subspecialties—the most stimulating and fruitful. … It seems appropriate to encourage more such panels." Another, commenting on the excellence of his panel, found that it "underscored the value of comparative sessions."

Attendance on Sunday morning suffered to quite a degree from early departures of participants in anticipation of the crippling blizzard that soon arrived to snow in the rest of us for an extra two days. We spent the days celebrating a by-all-accounts successful event, which the program chair, speaking for herself, experienced as a great party!

Renate Bridenthal, chair
Brooklyn Coll., City Univ. of New York

Patrick Manning, cochair
Northeastern Univ.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.