AHA Annual Meeting

Welcome to Denver: a Sneak Preview of the 131st Annual Meeting

Debbie Ann Doyle, September 2016

Downtown in the Mile High City, from a Tichnor Brothers postcard (c. 1930–45). Boston Public Library/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0AHA staff members have been hard at work preparing for the annual meeting in Denver. Look online at historians.org/annual-meeting for detailed, up-to-date information about reserving your hotel room, registering for the meeting, and getting around Denver—a walkable city that locals assure us is generally dry and sunny during the first weekend in January. This issue of Perspectives includes registration and hotel rates and important dates and deadlines for preparing to join your colleagues in Denver.

Meanwhile, this article will focus on the fun stuff—a sneak preview of the program for the 131st annual meeting. The new 90-minute time limit for individual sessions will allow us to present more than 300 of them, since we’ve been able to add two time slots to the schedule. There are sure to be research, teaching, and professional development events to suit every interest. Detailed program information will be posted at historians.org/annual-meeting on September 14.

Interpreting Historical Scale

Each annual meeting has an official theme. While it is by no means necessary for sessions on the program to address the theme, a series of interesting discussions can coalesce around this topic. The theme for 2017 is “Historical Scale: Linking Levels of Experience.”

AHA president Patrick Manning (Univ. of Pittsburgh) has organized a series of sessions exploring ways in which changing perspectives of scale can illuminate our ­understanding of the past. How does historical interpretation change if we shift our analysis across small and large geographic spaces, over short and long periods of time, or between broad themes and single incidents? The panels Manning has assembled consider the broad implications of scale in historical research in world, global, and transnational history. One session, “Historians and Geneticists in Collaborative Research,” tackles a large temporal scale and literally microscopic evidence to explore what genetics and pathogens can tell us about migration. A discussion focused on the work of honorary foreign member Boubacar Barry, a historian of West Africa, considers the past from a regional perspective. Sessions on Muslim political thought; the United Nations Educational, Scien­tific, and Cultural Organization; the role of unfree labor in the modern world economy; and the Wiriyamu Massacre in colonial Mozambique complete the series. “Through these presidential panels, I have sought to identify issues of global importance that are also relevant to historians of many specializations,” Manning explains. “They include issues of scale, science, contemporary nationhood, colonialism, religion, slavery, the meanings of global history, and the archives available for study of the world. I hope that many AHA members will join in these discussions, led by outstanding scholars.”

Other sessions accepted by the AHA Program Committee address the theme, including both broad comparative sessions and others focused on histories of specific places, people, and events.

Beyond the theme, the annual meeting program always showcases fascinating trends. The 2017 Program Committee accepted multiple sessions on economic history and the history of capitalism, the history of childhood, military and diplomatic history, and environmental history. There are several sessions on the history of sexuality, as well as the history of death and dying. Some panels and roundtables will recognize important anniversaries, such as centennials of the Russian Revolution, World War I, and the Balfour Declaration, as well as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Topics of contemporary interest, including the world history of licit and illicit drugs and guns and violence in American culture, also appear on the program. The Local Arrangements Committee has organized a series of panels exploring the history of Denver. Teachers at every level will be sure to find sessions of interest, including multiple presentations on teaching survey courses. As in previous meetings, the program also features a strong digital history presence. So be prepared to have trouble deciding which parts of the rich and varied program to attend!

In addition to this smorgasbord, the meeting will open with a plenary that is open to the public. Titled “The First Hundred Days: Priorities for the New US President,” it will give historians of China, the Middle East, the United States, and other areas an opportunity to offer advice to the new president on setting an agenda.

We look forward to an intellectually exciting and productive meeting.

Debbie Ann Doyle is the AHA’s meetings coordinator.


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