Publication Date

September 1, 1990

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

The first issue of the 1990–91 academic year, like all September editions of this column, is a time for playing catch-up ball. Because of the preponderance of academic historians among our membership, we do not publish a newsletter in the summer months, when so many members are away from their permanent addresses. A long sequence of reports on activities from mid-April to the end of August is consequently necessary in our first fall issue to keep our readers informed.

By far the most important event of the 1990 summer is the quinquennial meeting of historians from all over the world at the 17th International Congress of the Historical Sciences meeting in Madrid August 26–September 2. We will have an account of the meeting in a later issue, but at this writing, it will certainly see the presence of a couple of hundred historians from the United States and a couple of thousand from forty or fifty other countries! The international congresses have been held every five years, except during World Wars I and II, since the end of the nineteenth century.

The Teaching Division of the Association met April 21–22 in Indianapolis, on the margin of a meeting of the midwest area’s regional organization of the National Council for the Social Studies. This meeting enabled Division members to observe and participate in the NCSS group’s activities, where they were made most welcome. Most of the Division’s important topics are reported on under the article on the AHA Council (p. 3), but deserving special note is the work of our Task Force on the Undergraduate History Major. One of twelve discipline-based committees overseen by the Association of American Colleges, our task force was chaired by Myron A. Marty, Drake University, and included Edward Gosselin, California State University, Long Beach; Colin Palmer, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Lynda Shaffer, Tufts University; and Joanna Zangrando, Skidmore College. Their thoughtful study of conditions and practices was printed in the May/June issue of Perspectives, and additional copies are available through our publications office.

Also on the agenda for the weekend was a third meeting of the History Education Network, which has been evolving from an initiative chaired by AHA Past President Louis Harlan and strongly supported by the Teaching Division. At this important meeting the framework for a permanent body was roughed out, which can bring together all of the many history organizations and study groups involved in efforts to enhance and reinforce history and social studies education in the schools. The OAH, NCSS, and the AHA all pledged in principle to make a financial contribution to the new network, which is expected to be finalized in a meeting late this month.

In early June an important early meeting of the steering committee for the Bill of Rights Education Collaborative was held. We met jointly with the American Political Science Association, our partner in this Pew Charitable Trust-funded enterprise to mark the bicentenary of the Bill of Rights in the nation’s schools. A full meeting of the project’s governing board is scheduled for mid-August.

Members should also note that one of the unsung, but influential, continuing committees in which the AHA participates is the Joint Committee of Historians and Archivists. This group brings together OAH and AHA historians and representatives of the Society of American Archivists. The agenda for the Joint Committee’s April meeting included access to and declassification of government records, the role of history in archival training and vice versa, and funding for the National Archives and the Library of Congress. The committee also met with staff at the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to review several important initiatives under that agency’s direction.

A continuing charge from the Association’s division committees and the Council is to develop activities to improve the flow of minorities into the graduate education pipeline, which supplies historian-teachers to all levels of the educational system. The number of graduate students of almost all minorities is declining alarmingly. The Council is planning the creation of a special committee to oversee and coordinate our activities.

During the summer, AHA staff participated in two significant conferences in this regard. One sponsored by the University of Florida’s History Department that gave powerful insights into the mechanics of remedial action; while the other conference sponsored by the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, NJ took an interdisciplinary look at the larger picture for the humanities and social sciences.

The summer was also a time for choosing the site of the Association’s first January annual meeting to be held in 1994. As members will recall, our last December 27–30 meetings will be held in New York City this year, in Chicago in 1991, and in Washington, D.C., in 1992. We will then convene 371 days later on the first weekend after New Year’s Day, 1994. Arduous negotiations with two cities produced a decision to meet in San Francisco that year. Although our room rates there in January are not quite so sensational as in the next three years of December meetings, they still represent a better bargain than most of our sister organizations are able to obtain at other seasons.

A potpourri of other events in late spring and early summer should also be mentioned. The stimulating speaker at the early May annual Jefferson Lecture, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, was the distinguished (and former Council member) Bernard Lewis. The Jameson lecture at the Library of Congress in early June was delivered by the AHA and Library’s Jameson Fellow, Dr. Carol McCann, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The Association was as always represented in New York at the late April annual meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies. Although staff attendance was truncated by an overlap with the spring meeting of our own governing Council (see below), our delegate to the ACLS meeting, Professor Gerda Lerner, University of Wisconsin, Madison, ably represented historians’ interests.