Historians in Collaboration

More than One

Julia Brookins, October 2014

What exactly do we need from each other? Whenever I am giving someone my e-mail address over the phone, I explain that it is my first initial and last name “at historians—more than one historian—dot o-r-g.” Working at the AHA is a constant reminder that “more than one historian” can accomplish things that none of us could do on his or her own. Working at an office with just 17 people whose jobs exist to serve thousands of AHA members around the country and the world makes collaboration a given. For many historians, though, the solitary aspects of our work seem to be our primary functions.

In my work on behalf of the AHA’s Career Diversity Project, which aims to broaden the career horizons of history PhDs, I have talked with dozens of doctoral alumni as well as employers. One of the central lessons to emerge from these and other conversations is the need for historians to have experience working on teams with others. Many have underscored the need for graduate students to practice teamwork in varied settings. Working toward common goals with people from different disciplinary or professional perspectives can be a richly rewarding aspect of the working world within and beyond the academy.

But even when collaboration appears to be a great idea, how do we do it? It is easy to fall out of the practice of working effectively with a team for a common purpose. And how can the many historians who teach communicate to students our recognition that there is strength in numbers? The following pieces each address a particular dimension of collaboration. They work well together.

—Julia Brookins, special projects coordinator


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