December 03, 2012
By Pillarisetti Sudhir
It may not be the annus mirabilis that Philip Larkin celebrated in his poem, but 1962 was, nevertheless, quite a remarkable year. The New York Review of Books was born that year. The Rolling Stones had their first gig and the Beatles had their first hit song, “Love Me Do.” India and China, BFFs until then, went to war, and Sean Connery appeared as the first James Bond in Dr. No. Missiles were dismantled in Cuba and Algeria became independent. None of these historic events were, of course, mentioned in the first issue of the newsletter of the AHA, which quietly appeared as an eight-page self-mailer in December 1962, for its function was strictly limited (besides, these weren’t historic events yet, were they?).
The December 2012 issue of Perspectives on History, on its way to subscribers—and online now in its digital avatar—is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the launch of that first newsletter with a thematically focused special issue. The issue’s guest editor, Lynn Hunt (Eugen Weber Professor of Modern European History at UCLA and AHA president for 2002) and the staff editors requested several authors to contribute articles on the theme—“The Future of the Discipline”—but gave them wide latitude in its interpretation. So, in addition to the regular columns—a scintillating valedictory essay on the value of teaching by outgoing president William Cronon; a thoughtful discussion by AHA’s executive director, Jim Grossman, of the historians’ tasks as seen by the contributors to the issue; an incisive analysis of career trajectories by Robert Townsend; a tempting preview of the AHR’s contents from the journal’s editor, Robert Schneider; and an ebullient call for collaboration from vice president Patricia Limerick—the issue carries a whole galaxy of stellar articles that explore various dimensions and facets of the theme. The authors who contributed articles to the issue are Benjamin Alpers, Caroline Walker Bynum, Dipesh Chakrabarty, James W. Cortada, Frederick Cooper, Debbie Ann Doyle, Jeffery A. Engel, Pekka Hämäläinen, Alice Kessler-Harris, Ethan Kleinberg, Lisa A. Lindsay, Christine Mathias, Mae M. Ngai, Lori Byrd Phillips and Dominic McDevitt-Parks, Joan Wallach Scott, Daniel Lord Smail, Peter Stearns, Francesca Trivellato, and Charles A. Zappia. They deal with a wide range of issues, ranging from the future of the profession to the uses of Wikipedia, from transnational history to history in deep time, and from perspectives on Perspectives to self-reflections and reminiscences. An introductory essay by Lynn Hunt and the transcript of a conversation between her and Jacques Revel round off the special articles of this commemorative issue. Eager to read all these articles? They are all online now, but only members can have access to most of them. Not yet an AHA member? It’s easy to join!