Before the present economic crisis, history departments were hiring more tenure-track faculty than they were losing by attrition, and they were conferring tenure on their faculty at a much higher rate than counterparts in other humanities fields.
These are some of the key findings of interest to historians in a just-released 2007-08 survey of departments in eight humanities disciplines by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). The survey was conducted by staff at the American Institute of Physics as part of the AAAS Humanities Indicators Project, and includes comparative data collected from English, foreign languages, history, history of science, art history, linguistics, and religion departments at approximately 1,400 colleges and universities.
At its January meeting, the AHA Council endorsed a new study from the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW) that calls on college and university faculty and administrators to assure that all teachers at their institutions are treated as professionals. Representing a consensus of 15 disciplinary and professional associations, the report concludes that “[i]f we are to maintain a world-class system of higher education and help all students achieve success, we must have a strong faculty with the support necessary to carry out its professional responsibilities.”
Citing the long term decline in the proportion of college and university faculty in full-time tenure-track positions, the “One Faculty Serving All Students” issue brief calls for reducing reliance on faculty employed in short-term appointments while improving the compensation and benefits of contingent faculty.
The Department of Education has just published a new Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) that tries to reduce our discipline to a few categories ranging from American history to military history, but the categories selected for note offer a rather distorted picture of what students are being taught in our field. The new list contains 10 categories: History; History, General; American History (United States); European History; History and Philosophy of Science and Technology; Public/Applied History; Asian History; Canadian History; Military History; and History, Other.
In what can be seen as an opening salvo in Britain’s war of cultural conquest of India, Thomas Babington Macaulay, member of the Council of India (and author of the Lays of Ancient Rome, and a multivolume history of England, among other books) proclaimed in 1835 that “all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England.” In thus articulating the thoughts of an emergent imperial ruling class, Macaulay was echoing what was rapidly becoming by then a common presupposition—that India, especially ancient India, had no history or even a concept of history.
A committee of the Oral History Association was recently tasked with revising their oral history Evaluation Guidelines. These guidelines are invaluable to the discipline, offering the best statement of principles of good practice in oral history research, and the AHA has consistently endorsed them over the past decade. They have also been invaluable in our discussions with and about institutional review boards.
Committee chair Tracy K’Meyer invites “suggestions for material to add or subtract, issues to address, ways to reorganize” the document, so we strongly encourage historians who use oral history methods to re-read the guidelines and offer their suggestions to the committee.
In response to a history department chair feeling pressure from his administration to count grant funding the same as an article in a peer reviewed journal, vice president David Weber, after consultation with the full Division, offered the following advisory response:
“In the case of individual scholars, receipt of a competitively awarded fellowship or grant is certainly an honor and usually a sign of worthy past achievement and of scholarly promise. The winner of such an award deserves recognition by that scholar’s employer.
Note: This post is a shortened version of the presentation Robert Townsend gave at the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. See also last Wednesday’s post by David Darlington on coverage of the conference: Reports from the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women.
It is difficult to find a fair benchmark for assessing the progress of women in the history discipline. As you probably know, history is much less diverse than the larger American population, so setting the benchmark at 51 percent seems unfair.
A review in the Washington Post last Sunday reiterated the now tired claim that postmodernism in its various guises is responsible for poor writing in the discipline. While the constellation of methods gathered under that label rarely promote lucid prose, the latest addition to our online archives—a 1926 report about The Writing of History—shows the profession mulling over many of the same issues 80 years ago.
Although nominally a committee report, the publication consists of four essays addressing different aspects of the issue: A survey of “The Historian’s Work” by Jean Jules Jusserand (former ambassador from France and AHA President), an assessment of “The Influence of Graduate Instruction on Historical Writing” by Wilbur C.