What Does the AHA Do? A Step-by-Step Guide from Perspectives

The April and May issues were the first issues I worked on from beginning to end as the new associate editor of Perspectives on History. As I brainstormed, wrote, edited, and proofread with Allen Mikaelian, the editor of Perspectives, I started to have an appreciation for what the AHA is, and what it does. Here’s a short introduction to some of what the AHA does through the lens of the May issue.

May_Cover1The AHA does advocacy. Jan Goldstein, president of the AHA, writes in the May issue about different causes that the AHA is asked to advocate for or against. She explains how the 15 members of the Council, the governing body of the AHA, make decisions about which causes to take up. Advocacy is also done through the AHA’s participation in the National Coalition for History, a separate nonprofit but one dedicated entirely to advocacy.

The AHA advocates for history students, as well. Through a Mellon Foundation grant of $1.6 million, the AHA will work with universities to redefine success for historians and to train PhD students for a variety of careers outside of academia. At the annual meeting in January, as part of a larger conversation about diversifying the employment horizons of historians, Lauren Apter Bairnsfather talked to students about careers in university administration, and in this issue provides a Q&A about those pathways. The What I Do video series features historians talking about their work outside the academy. The AHA also supports history teachers, and this issue features several innovative articles on how teachers are using —using film, video games, and classroom discussions.

The AHA Council comprises three divisions: Teaching, Research, and Professional. The Professional Division’s work includes the collection and dissemination of information about employment markets. Beginning with this issue of Perspectives, the members of this division answer ethical questions in their column The Ethical Historian. This month, they address the issue of how much time a candidate should be given to respond to a job offer.

The AHA also shares with its members news relating to history. For example, editor Allen Mikaelian writes about the National Endowment for the Humanities’ initiative to bridge the gap between veterans and civilians, and Seth Denbo, AHA’s director of scholarly communication and digital initiatives, reports on legislation relating to orphan works.

Also at 400 A Street SE is the National History Center, with a mission to bring history into public conversations about current events in the US and the world. In the May issue, the new director and assistant director introduce themselves, following the April issue’s explication of the recent changes at the center. They’re busy planning this summer’s Decolonization Seminar and organizing a June Congressional Briefing on the historical context of the relationship between Congress and the CIA. A recent Washington History Seminar explored how boys reared on Rudyard Kipling stories became CIA agents.

Finally, the AHA is involved in the dissemination of historians’ work. The Research Division works “to encourage the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts, to ensure equal access to information, and to foster the dissemination of information about historical records and research.” The AHA publishes the American Historical Review, and several booklet series, the latest on Regions and Regionalisms in the Modern World. In the May issue of Perspectives, Stephen W. Campbell also makes the argument that historians should be involved in the creation and editing of Wikipedia entries.

The May issue is available on our website, and members can also download the PDF and e-pub versions to their computers and mobile devices.

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