December 10, 2008
By Robert B. Townsend
As we make final preparations for the annual meeting, I want to highlight three sessions that attendees might have missed.
The session that may be of general interest is “Election 2008: How ‘Historic’ Was It?” to be held on Sunday, January 4, at 8 p.m. in the New York Hilton’s Grand Ballroom. We were struck in watching news coverage of the election how often the media labeled it “historic” and “history-making,” but often reduced the meaning of those terms to a few simple comparisons to past personalities, politics, and events. This session will consider the election results from a deeper historical perspective, and try to examine their historical context that includes the progress of African Americans in U.S. politics; the political hurdles that the new administration will face, as compared to previous administrations; and the larger world historical perspective.
The panel will be chaired by former AHA President Eric Foner (Columbia Univ.), and the participants will be David Levering Lewis (NYU), Alan Brinkley (Columbia Univ.), Caroline Elkins (Harvard Univ.), Julian Zelizer (Princeton Univ.), Jacqueline Jones (Univ. of Texas at Austin), and John Darwin (Oxford University). The presentations will be followed by questions and observations from the audience.
The AHA Research Division is also sponsoring two other sessions about the profession, which were put together too late to appear on the official AHA Program and have been generously sponsored by affiliated societies.
On Friday, January 2, we will be co-sponsoring a session on “The Past of the Future or the Future of the Past? Perspectives on Digital Historical Monographs from Gutenberg-e Authors” (1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Sheraton New York’s Riverside Ballroom). The final digital monographs were published in the fall, so this seemed like the ideal time to reflect on the results of this very ambitious program. So with the sponsorship of the Center for History and New Media, we will bring together a number of the authors to discuss what it takes to produce monographs that take some advantage of digital media, and some of the benefits and difficulties involved in creating electronic monographs.
Then on Saturday, we will be co-sponsoring a session on “The Research Habits of Historians: Practice and Teaching” with the Association for the Bibliography of History (2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Hilton New York’s Nassau Suite B). This session brings together three researchers who have recently conducted invaluable studies on the way we in the profession both conduct and use research. The studies offer a fresh vantage point for assessing how historians teach research methods to undergraduates, initiate a research project, and ultimately publish the results of their research. I hope this will open up a more reflective discussion about research practices in the discipline.
I am exceptionally grateful to the session co-sponsors and the participants (many of whom agreed to serve on the panels at the last minute), and hope members attending the meeting will not overlook these sessions as they make up their schedules.