Author Archives: Robert B. Townsend

Council Decisions: January 3 and 6, 2013

AHA Council Meeting, January 3, 2013

At the semi-annual meeting of the Council of the American Historical Association held Thursday and Sunday, the governing board made the following decisions:

  • Approved a slate of nominations from the Committee on Committees, which includes appointments to the various prize and other committees.
  • Approved an application for affiliation from the Society of Civil War Historians.
  • Asked the incoming president to appoint an ad hoc committee to develop recommendations on ways the AHA can and should address the educational implications of the growing use of adjunct and part-time faculty.

Mixed News in New History Jobs Report

Figure 1: Number of History PhDs and Advertised Job Openings, 1970–71 to 2011–12

The AHA’s annual job report, which is being released today, offers mixed news about the state of the history job market, particularly in academia. The number of positions advertised with the AHA last year increased by 18 percent, but the number of new PhDs and the average number of applicants per position also continued to grow—particularly for specialists in the history of the United States. We also found evidence of some modest contraction in the number of full-time faculty positions in the departments listed in the AHA’s Directory of History Departments and Historical Organizations.

A Vital Resource: The Humanities Indicators

Have you ever pondered job prospects for humanities majors, or wondered about trends in the number of visits to historic sites? The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is currently hosting an invaluable resource, The Humanities Indicators, which holds the answers to these questions and many more.

The Indicators provide summaries and context for publicly available data on the humanities, with information on students, teachers, employment, and the general health of the humanities in public life. Perhaps best of all, their information comes with easy to use visuals and tables that can easily be integrated into reports and powerpoint presentations.

Historians React to Proposal from Florida Task Force on State Higher Education Reform

Should it cost more for a degree in history than the sciences? A preliminary proposal from a task force, commissioned by Florida Governor Rick Scott offers a resounding “yes.” If their proposal goes into effect, it would allow public universities to charge undergraduates differing tuition rates depending on their major. The proposal offers to freeze tuition rates for majors in “specific high-skill, high demand (market determined strategic demand) degree programs,” in an effort to lure such students into the state. Meanwhile, for fields viewed as having less value—history among them—tuition would rise.

A Fresh Look at Careers of and for History PhDs

Are there career options for history PhDs beyond the academy? In today’s Chronicle of Higher Education L. Maren Wood (a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina) offers an emphatic yes.

Drawing on her own experience and that of her friends, she describes an array of former history PhDs who have moved on to fulfilling jobs outside the academy (in marked contrast to a friend now struggling in a tenure-track job). But more than that, she tracked down 487 graduates from four history departments (Duke University; Ohio State University; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and University of California, Santa Barbara) and offers substantive statistical data about the changing career patterns of history PhDs over the past 20 years.

The PhD Gap: Worrisome Trends in the Hiring of Junior Faculty

In response to a question from Stacy Patton for her Chronicle of Higher Education article, “Stale PhDs Need Not Apply,” I put together the accompanying chart from my surveys of job advertisers. The trends are quite fascinating, and could have significant implications for the training and preparation of new PhDs and the expectations of those currently in the history job market.

Members of the profession generally recognize that the traditional model of newly minted PhDs filling the junior ranks of the profession increasingly reflects a bygone era.

Copyright and the Historian: How CUP v. Becker Affects You

Perspectives Online is featuring an important article on a recent landmark copyright case by Michael Les Benedict, emeritus professor of history at The Ohio State University, and a member of the AHA Task Force on Intellectual Property.

This case, Cambridge University Press v. Becker, is one that directly affects how teaching historians go about their work, and should be read by anyone who has ever assigned or plans to assign, a course reading through their library’s e-reserve system.

Benedict helpfully places Becker, decided in May 2012, within the context of past decisions on copyright rulings and the even larger debate over the meaning of copyright in the U.S.

AHA Seeking New Associate Editor for Perspectives on History

December Perspectives

The American Historical Association is looking for a historian to join the publications team as associate editor of Perspectives on History, the AHA’s monthly newsmagazine. The associate editor serves in a variety of writing and editorial capacities at the Association’s headquarters office, working primarily on content for the newsmagazine, but also social media and press relations work as well as assisting with other print and online publications as time allows. The associate editor will participate in a team effort to revise, plan, and develop an integrated suite of print and digital publications.