Publication Date

September 1, 1996

Last year, Patrick Manning provided clear instructions for the preparation of AHA panel proposals in an essay entitled "Preparing Your Proposal for the 1997 Annual Meeting" (Perspectives, September 1995, p. 12). The 1997 Program Committee felt that the quality of submissions was extraordinarily high and attributed this at least in part to the explicit directions Manning provided. Ann Waltner and Sara Evans, the program cochairs for the 1998 annual meeting, have, with Manning’s permission, revised his instructions for the 1998 meeting. They are published here in the hope that they will be useful to those who are contemplating preparing proposals. The 1998 Program Committee especially encourages the submission of comparative panels, which present their own difficulties and opportunities. Scholars who have a promising comparative topic but who need help completing the panel are urged to post inquiries on the relevant H-Net list or to submit their proposals by the October 31 deadline. The committee will do its utmost to help round out comparative panels.


  • All panelists must be AHA members except for foreign scholars and colleagues from other disciplines.
  • No one may appear on the program of two successive AHA meetings, or twice on the program of one annual meeting .. even as chair of two panels. Since not everyone knows or remembers this rule, a panel organizer must confirm each participant's eligibility. The Program Committee enforces this rule with only one exception: the one exception that is regularly granted is for persons appearing on sessions sponsored by one of the AHA divisions or committees.
  • To reinforce the obvious: neatness counts. While the content of the panel and papers is ultimately what is most important, the form of the proposals is significant in conveying that content. When a committee must review hundreds of proposals, those that are readable and well organized have a tendency to rise to the top. The committee prefers brief c.v.'s, which should include the doctoral institution, date of degree, and major recent publications. Information such as university service, courses taught, and the like, which may appear on the standard c.v., is generally not relevant to the work of the committee and need not be included.
  • Four papers and two comments make for an overly crowded panel: two papers and one comment is not enough. The chair and commentator should be different people in case one cannot make it to the meeting. Senior commentators, experienced on a topic, are generally more attractive to the committee and to audiences than are junior commentators. The commentator should not be the dissertation adviser of any member of the panel. Panels submitted without a chair or commentator are less likely to be accepted by the committee.
  • Gender balance is important; the effort put into turning single-sex panel proposals into gender-integrated proposals (as with other efforts toward diversification of race, field, institution, and seniority) usually results in a healthy broadening of perspectives.
  • Having a range of institutions is also important, by which we mean a regional range and a mix of panelists' current and doctoral institutions. It is also useful to seek out a mix of junior and senior panelists.
  • Authors of single papers in search of a panel may want to post a notice to the appropriate H-Net list in their field.
  • There are two deadlines for the AHA program, October 31, 1996, and February 15, 1997. Single-paper proposals may only be submitted in October, and we recommend submitting panels at the early deadline as well. At that point, panels can still be strengthened before final decisions are made in the spring. At the spring meeting of the committee, panels are either accepted or rejected. An incomplete panel submitted at the second deadline is in serious jeopardy.


The content and topical interaction of the papers are, of course, the real substance of each panel. Papers might include three approaches to a single issue in a given place and time, or they might include three approaches to an issue in a range of places, with the approaches linked by common theory. Linking intellectual issues to teaching strategies provides an added strength. In any case, the papers must present new work to the audience.

Because the AHA serves a wide audience of historians, panels are more competitive if they are comparative or engage in issues of broad interest rather than if they are narrowly specialized. Panel proposals for comparative panels must articulate the logic of comparison that is being argued by the panel, and the commentator should be prepared to elaborate on the logic of the comparison.

Patrick Manning and Patrick Preston did a survey of AHA programs since 1980, and found that there has been remarkable consistency in the regional distribution of panels, and in the proportion of global and comparative panels. They also found that there have been far too few panels in African, Asian, Middle Eastern, or eastern European history. We strongly urge historians working in these underrepresented fields to submit panel proposals. We look forward to receiving your proposals, and to a stimulating meeting in Seattle.

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