AHA Activities

1988 Nominating Committee Report

Richard S. Dunn, January 1989

(Elected candidates are indicated with an asterisk)

On behalf of the Nominating Committee, I am pleased to report the results of the 1988 election for AHA offices.

President (one-year term)

*Louis R. Harlan, University of Maryland College Park (U.S.)—2731 votes

President-elect (one-year term)

*David Herlihy, Brown University (medieval)—2256

J.G.A. Pocock, Johns Hopkins University (Europe)—1101

Vice-President, Teaching Division (three-year term)

Robert L. Harris, Cornell University (Afro-American)—1187

*Mary K.B. Tachau, University of Louisville (American)—1916

Council Members (three-year terms)

Place 1

Asuncion Lavrin, Howard University (Latin America)—1256

*Margaret Strobel, University of Illinois, Chicago (Africa)—1684

Place 2

Seymour Drescher, University of Pittsburgh (Europe)—1413

*Martin J. Wiener, Rice University (Britain)—1568

Division Committee Members (three-year terms)


Richard J.M. Blackett, Indiana University (Afro-American)—1154

*David M. Katzman, University of Kansas (U.S.)—1740


Jacqueline Goggin, Papers of J. Franklin Jameson (U.S.)—1242

*Constance B. Schulz, University of South Carolina (U.S.)—1605


*Barbara J. Harris, Pace University (England)—1932

Diethelm Prowe, Carleton College (Germany)—994

Committee on Committees (three-year term)

*Stanley G. Payne, University of Wisconsin, Madison (Europe)—1771

Alexander Sedgwick, University of Virginia (Europe)—1152

Nominating Committee (three-year terms)

Place 1

Robert L. Middlekauff, University of California, Berkeley (America)—1417

*Gary B. Nash, University of California, Los Angeles (America)—1772

Place 2

Norman Itzkowitz, Princeton University (Near East)—1209

*Angeliki Laiou, Harvard University (Byzantium)—1716

Place 3

Sidney D. Brown, University of Oklahoma (Far East)—937

*Barbara N. Ramusack, University of Cincinnati (South Asia)—1951

The total number of ballots cast was 3510, which is below the 3600 votes tabulated in 1987, but slightly above the AHA electoral average over the past eight years. Obviously only a small percentage of our 13,000 members choose to vote, and this year five members expressed their contempt for the whole proceedings by returning blank ballots, accompanied by derisive comments (i.e., "What a joke!"). But analysis of a 10 percent sample of the ballots cast in 1988 suggests that the members who do vote take the matter seriously. In this sample, some 60 percent of the voters made choices for all twelve offices on the ballot, which is surely a remarkably high percentage. Another 15 percent made choices for eleven offices, and 5 percent made choices for nine or ten offices. The remaining 20 percent of the voters were more selective: 10 percent voted for five to eight candidates, 8 percent for two to four candidates, and 2 percent for one candidate—generally, but by no means invariably, one of the candidates for president-elect.

Another feature of this year's balloting was the strong support shown for women candidates. Only two decades ago, very few female members of the AHA were either nominated or elected to office. But times have changed. In recent elections, and never more so than in 1988, the membership has clearly voted for gender equality in selecting the leaders of our Association.

As often in the past, the business of tabulating the 1988 ballots proved to be quite irksome. Hundreds of voters ignored the very clear instructions to fill in the circles on the ballot with pencil, and made check marks or X's, or used ball point pens. All of these ballots had to be remarked by hand before they could be read by optical scanner. The secretaries in the Penn history department cheerfully performed the tedious task of opening envelopes and remarking ballots as needed. The University Management Information Services then scanned and tabulated 3292 ballots, and the remaining 218 ballots—which were either mangled in the mail or arrived too close to the November 1 deadline to be scanned—were counted by hand.

This year the nine members of the Nominating Committee convened in Washington on February 18-20 to put together our electoral slate. We began our work by proposing three candidates to the AHA Council for the 1988 Award for Scholarly Distinction. We then spent nearly two days, from Thursday evening through Saturday morning, selecting twenty-two candidates for the eleven contested elections. All in all, we had extended roundtable discussion concerning some 130 different historians in the process of narrowing our choices. By Saturday morning we had contacted almost all of our nominees. We had the awkward task pf requesting these people to run for office without revealing to them who they would be running against; the AHA procedure is to withhold announcement of the electoral slate until April. Fortunately for us, nearly all of our candidates readily agreed to stand. One nominee, however, felt forced to decline because of pressing commitments, and two others proved to be unreachable, which necessitated three last-minute changes in the ballot.

In making our selections, we had the benefit of a large number of suggestions from the general membership: some 200 names were proposed by members of the AHA at the time of the 1987 ballot. It turned out that a quarter of these nominees were not members of the AHA, while others were current or recent officers for the Association and hence ineligible. But a bigger problem was that very few of the nominators offered concrete supporting documentation on behalf of their candidates. Nevertheless, the Nominating Committee carefully considered every candidate who was known to any of us, and five persons nominated by the general membership ended up on our 1988 ballot.

As usual, the Nominating Committee made a systematic effort to achieve a balanced ticket, weighing considerations of age, race, gender, field, region, experience, and institutional affiliation, in addition to scholarly achievement and service to the profession. We tried our best to address the complaint articulated by several members in recent issues of Perspectives that research universities are overrepresented and small colleges are underrepresented in AHA elections, but concluded that we need more active help from the membership in order to identify strong candidates from the small college sector of our constituency—especially now that the latest history volume of The Directory of American Scholars is seriously out of date. Accordingly we asked the AHA Council to redesign the suggestion page in the pamphlet accompanying the 1988 ballot so as to encourage people to nominate one or two candidates for the 1989 ballot instead of a whole slate, and to give concrete reasons for each nomination. This was done, and we hope that the results will prove useful to next year's Nominating Committee.

We also considered another complaint voiced recently in Perspectives: that the candidates' statements of purpose in the electoral pamphlet, traditionally restricted to fifty words each, are too brief to be informative. We proposed to the Council that the candidates for president-elect be allowed up to 150 words each, and the candidates for vice-president and council be allowed up to 100 words. The Council accepted this change, and inspection of the 1988 electoral pamphlet will show that the candidates for these offices took full advantage of the expanded word limit in writing their statements.

On behalf of the Nominating Committee, I wish to thank the candidates of 1988—particularly the non-elected—for consenting to participate in a contest where only half the nominees can win. I also want to express the committee's particular indebtedness to Eileen Gaylard for setting up our meeting, and for providing us with invaluable help and wise council throughout our proceedings. Eileen has now retired as executive assistant of the AHA, and it is hard to imagine how this committee will function in the future without her. All of us who have had the pleasure of working with Eileen Gaylard will miss her vintage reflections upon life in the Association as she has known it. The AHA executive director, Samuel Gammon, was very helpful whenever called upon. And to conclude on a personal note, I would like to say how greatly I have enjoyed working with my colleagues on the Nominating Committee over the past three years; it has been a privilege to share in this communal effort to serve our Association.

Richard S. Dunn
University of Pennsylvania
Chair, 1988 Nominating Committee