August 30, 2008
By Robert B. Townsend
A journalist contacted me yesterday asking me for “the AHA’s historical ranking of presidents.” The answer is quite simple—there isn’t one.
I am not sure where this rumor came from, but I receive similar calls almost once a month. While I appreciate that journalists and the general public think our credibility would lend standing to such a ranking, we have not conducted such a survey, and I expect we never will. Quite frankly I do not think we would have much credibility left if we got into the historical ranking business.
It is our job to promote the importance of historical context, provide forums for discussion, and defend the rights of historians to offer their assessments of the past. It is not our role to try to offer a poll-tested view of something quite as subjective as the relative merits of the presidents. So while I am grateful for the attention, you will just have to look elsewhere.