Publication Date

May 1, 1990

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

The Association’s Washington springtime is always hectic. March and April of each year see the convening of the three constitutionally established division committees, Professional, Research, and Teaching. Also, it sees the Council’s spring meeting, before which the Council’s Finance Committee reviews and recommends an annual budget for the Council to consider; the Committee on Women Historians convenes; and other, ad-hoc committees often meet during this busy season. To commence the last decade of the millennium, the division committees chose to convene in alphabetic order, and we can report briefly on the first two in this issue. The Committee on Women Historians’ meeting is reported separately; other events will be reported this fall.

As always, the Professional Division Committee’s most difficult and most time-consuming task was consideration of cases of alleged breaches of the AHA Standards of Professional Conduct. The meeting on March 26 was no exception. Five cases already adjudicated were reviewed and the status of on-going actions taken concerning them. One case involved alleged plagiarism, which the committee found not to have occurred as charged, though one party to the case had placed itself in a position where appearances were misleading. In another case, in which plagiarism was found to have occurred in a manuscript, the university press considering it has withdrawn it from planned publication. In another case no plagiarism was found, but two scholars were working in the same field and using identical source collections, always a highly-charged state of affairs. In this case a serial publication was found to have given currency to the unproven and in fact untrue accusation and was rebuked by the Division for not permitting a response. A fourth case of an author’s rights having been violated by a foreign publisher has led to an important educational effort to alert scholar-authors to these dangers. The final case, involving plagiarism by a foreign writer of an American scholar’s work, has led to the cessation of sales and advertising of the flawed book by its publisher.

Three new cases were adjudicated by the Division. In one case a department of history sought an advisory opinion on a previous case, in which the book had been withdrawn. The Division agreed that plagiarism had occurred. In a second case the Division found that an academic had violated professional ethics by misrepresentations in a curriculum vitae and has informed the institution. The final case concerned a matter of truth in advertising of a position vacancy; the Professional Division found that the advertisement in question should indeed have been more explicit regarding limitations in the field of candidates sought. The Division is itself seeking Council guidance on the question of Perspectives carrying position advertisements for discriminatory recruitment, even though the particular type of recruiting has been deemed legal by the courts.

Other important matters taken up by the Division included a recommendation to the Council to establish a new committee of the AHA on minority historians. The Professional Division worked on possible sessions for the next two annual meetings focused on professional concerns of the membership, and recommended the more frequent awarding of a prize for service to the profession.

The Research Division convened for a day and a half the last two days of March. It too had difficult decisions, but many of them related to the awarding of goodies! It reviewed one hundred applications for small, AHA research grants under the Beveridge, Littleton-Griswold, and Kraus programs for projects dealing with Western hemisphere history. A total of $14,500 was awarded to twenty-five applicants, including many graduate students working on dissertations. The Division examined ten dossiers of distinguished foreign scholars nominated for honorary membership in the AHA and with great difficulty narrowed the field to four. The Council will make a final selection from among this group. Honorary members are appointed, in a long tradition dating back to Leopold von Ranke in 1885, for their distinguished scholarship in history and for their helpfulness to U.S. scholars.

The Research Division considered the funding difficulties of its planned major project to produce a third edition of the Guide to Historical Literature. Only 60 percent of the funding has been assembled, and the Division recommended to the Council that a leaner and meaner budget be prepared, an appeal launched to the membership for supplementary donations, and a further effort be made with private foundations. The Division also heard an appeal from the long-time publisher of Recently Published Articles and Writings on American History for assistance in launching successor or continuation projects, which it is presenting to the Council for urgent consideration.

As always a considerable amount of staff time was expended on international projects in history. Participants in the August 1990 International Congress of Historical Sciences were apprised of the receipt of copies of the program and of the non-availability of supplementary travel funds this year. Contacts were initiated by the Soviet Embassy to discuss possible fields of additional bilateral historical collaboration in the context of the summer summit between the presidents of the two countries. Two historians from the Ukrainian Soviet Republic visited AHA headquarters, escorted by Professor Jaroslav Pelenski of the University of Iowa, to discuss en principe possible direct collaboration between Ukrainian and American historians. The Association was represented at the awarding of an honorary degree to the prime minister of Italy. Staff assisted a visitor from the University of Southampton, publicizing the facilities of its new Mountbatten center for international studies.

The OAH annual meeting in Washington in late March brought a massive turnout of AHA members, a number of whom met with staff either at the OAH meeting hotel or at AHA headquarters. We are gratified to learn that AHA Council member Lawrence Levine has been nominated for OAH president-elect. The executive directors of the OAH, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the AHA together with the History Teaching Alliance Director, Jane Landers also met with executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities during this period to thank her for her group’s helpfulness to HTA collaboratives and seek counsel about further fundraising to endow that thriving and important activity.