Published Date

September 17, 1972

This resource is part of The AHA Review Board: A Preliminary Report (1972). 

In the course of our work, we have corresponded with the officers of twenty-five other historical societies in an attempt to determine how the relations between these societies and the AHA can best be governed.

The chief problem involving AHA relations with the specialized societies has long been their role in the annual meeting—specifically, the many sessions held under their sponsorship and announced in the convention program. These sessions have overcrowded the program and, along with the desire for appropriate meeting space and amenities, seriously complicated and sometimes compromised the work of the program and local arrangements committees. It has been suggested that the AHA Council resolve this difficulty by restricting well-established specialized societies to one session every three years. Under these guidelines, however, newly-formed societies may meet with the AHA for three consecutive years before coming under the three-year rule.

We think that these guidelines should be retained. But we also think that, in all cases, the specialized societies must henceforth cover the costs of their meetings, meals, and publicity, and that in addition they be charged a service fee of $50 after they have been in existence for three years. The AHA no longer has the resources to help meet the expenses of these societies. Instead, it should be able to recover a portion of the administrative costs incurred in providing opportunities to the specialized societies. The specialized societies should, however, have the opportunity of holding annual meal-time meetings up to the limits of space in the convention quarters, and the AHA should continue to offer aid in selling and distributing tickets to their meals. Furthermore, we would strengthen the Council’s guidelines to prevent any specialized society from holding more than one session at an annual meeting, including sessions offered jointly with another society. In all cases we would extend space first to those societies which do not hold their own annual meetings. The Review Board feels that these proposed changes will restore to the AHA desirable control over its own program and at the same time encourage the development of the specialized societies as independent organizations. And, of course, nothing should prevent the specialized societies from making their own arrangements for meetings in the AHA convention city at the time of the annual meeting.

We also find that the situation of the Modern European History Section within the association is anomalous. It should have the same privileges as those extended to the other specialized societies. We therefore recommend that the Section become the Modern European History Conference and that it fall within the general guidelines for specialized’ societies which we have indicated above.

Moreover, we propose that the $1,500 annual subvention extended to the Pacific Coast Branch of the AHA be ended, that its report no longer be published in the AHA Annual Report, and that this organization re-form as the Pacific Coast Historical Association. This group has long performed important functions, especially when the annual meeting took place regularly on the East Coast. Now, however, conventions are held within easier reach of the West Coast, the Pacific Historical Review is firmly established, and the AHA finds it more difficult to free funds for its support.

The Review Board has sought to ascertain if any functions currently performed by the AHA could beneficially be taken over by the specialized societies and if the AHA might render the specialized societies any useful services it is not now offering. Responses to our inquiry have indicated a desire that bibliographic and archival information and book-reviewing be more systematically shared among the association and the other societies. We conclude, however, that the AHR should remain, as it is, a comprehensive journal of history, which shares information with other journals but does not relinquish to them the responsibility of collecting and publishing information. We are led to this conclusion for three reasons: the AHR has long provided continuity of bibliographic services, and this should be maintained; many other journals turn out, regrettably, to be short-lived; and the AHR is that historical journal published in the United States most likely to be used as a guide in other countries as well. We do think, however, that there should be more frequent, and perhaps regular, consultation among the editors of all historical journals (including the American Archivist) and the executive directors of all historical societies toward the sharing of information and resources wherever possible, and we endorse current actions taken in that spirit.

Finally, we believe that the Newsletter should continue to open its columns freely for the announcement of activities and meetings of the specialized historical societies and should include a separate section for this purpose. We do not agree, as some have proposed, that the specialized societies be formally represented on the Council of the AHA. We have discovered no measurable sentiment in favor of such an arrangement.