Author Archives: Robert B. Townsend


History and AP: Growing Numbers and a Different Student Population

The number of Advanced Placement history tests taken by high school students reached an unprecedented level with the graduating class of 2012. According to the College Board, students in the graduating class of 2012 took 580,360 tests in the fields of European, U.S., and world history, and more than half of those tests (300,484 in all) received a passing score of 3 or higher (out of 5).

Echoes of Present in the Past

For those who enjoy echoes of the present in the past, a brief tour through Frederick Jackson Turner’s papers at the Huntington Library a few weeks ago turned up a few treasures.

Perhaps you are troubled by the dominance of sports teams on your campus (in terms of both attention and resources)? In 1910, Joseph Schafer from the University of Oregon complained about “the excessive deference by our authorities to the athletics and other internals of college life which are directed by persons lacking in ideals, whose sole aim is success and applause.” Not surprisingly, perhaps, he spent the next decade seeking employment elsewhere, and ultimately went on serve as head of the Wisconsin Historical Society.


AHA Book Prizes to Align with Calendar Year

Starting this year, the eligibility dates for AHA book prizes will be aligned with the calendar year listed on the book’s copyright page. This decision follows careful consideration by the AHA Council.

Are Students More Likely to Finish at Elite Doctoral Programs?

Over at, Mark Sholdice notes the predominance of PhDs from a few elite programs in the academic history profession. The elite programs do enjoy higher placement rates—especially in the high-profile world of PhD programs. But he goes on to speculate that students from these programs “are more likely to graduate than their peers in smaller programs.” That inference is not borne out by the data.

Based on annual reporting from doctoral programs in the U.S., there is no clear correlation between the ranking or size of the program and actual completion rates.

Bridging Cultures Institute Underway at the Huntington Library

Steven Hindle, Director of Research at the Huntington Library, welcomes faculty members in the first institute, on the Pacific and Pacific World

The first of the AHA’s NEH-sponsored Bridging Cultures in Community Colleges institutes kicked off at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, yesterday. The institute gathers 24 community college faculty members and a half-dozen experts in the history of the Pacific and Pacific worlds to discuss the latest historiography on the subject, and how it might fit into U.S.

Peer Review, History Journals, and the Future of Scholarly Research

What is the future for history journals in the ecology of history scholarship? In a wide-ranging session at the AHA annual meeting, proponents of an array of print and digital forms for scholarly journal articles discussed the future of this form of history scholarship, and how to assure it reaches the widest audience possible.

Dan Cohen (George Mason Univ. and Center for History and New Media) opened the session, observing that the current system of peer review in journals relies heavily on labor that many colleges and universities pay for twice, first in salaries to faculty, and then in buying the journals that contain the fruits of their efforts.