January 04, 2009
By Elisabeth Grant
The 2009 General Meeting, held last night in the Hilton’s East Ballroom at 8:30 p.m., began with AHA president-elect Laurel Thatcher Ulrich presenting the AHA’s prizes and awards for 2008. This group consisted of 18 book prizes, 3 awards for scholarly distinction, 1 honorary foreign membership, and more. See the complete list of prize and award winners online, as it appeared in the November 2008 issue of Perspectives on History.
Following the presentation of awards, president-elect Ulrich introduced current AHA president Gabrielle Spiegel, commenting on president Spiegel’s background, contributions to the history profession, and her preparation for her address, which included reading every presidential address from the AHA’s past 125 years. To which president Spiegel responded to Ulrich, after taking the podium, “I look forward to your presidential address and reading it with all the others.”
The title of president Spiegel’s address was “The Task of the Historian,” and it will be available in its entirety online in February of this year. In the address president Spiegel spoke of how the study of history has evolved and continues to evolve, commenting on the effects of the Holocaust, the “linguistic turn” of the 60s, and of the current emphasis on global history. She did draw a little from past AHA presidential addresses, noting that William J. Bouwsma’s 1978 address, “The Renaissance and the Drama of Western History,” is the first AHA presidential address to use the term “postmodernism” and that Joyce Appleby’s 1997 address, “The Power of History,” remarks on the “educated public[’s]... epistemological crisis about history.” Spiegel’s address wrapped up on the topic of deconstruction and how it encourages historians to “listen to silence.” In fact, she emphasized that “our most fundamental task” as historians is to enable “narratives to emerge from silences,” a similar point made by speakers in Friday’s opening plenary session. Again, head online in February to see the published version of Gabrielle Spiegel’s presidential address.