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By Steven Mintz

Nothing concentrates the mind, Samuel Johnson quipped in 1777, more than the prospect of a hanging. And nothing focuses the minds of instructors of history survey courses quite like flagging enrollments, a loss of majors, and student disengagement

University of California, Berkeley is one of many universities where faculty members are testing new approaches to survey courses. Charlie Nguyen/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

History survey courses, once a crucial foundation of a college’s general education curriculum and an attractive gateway for history majors and minors, are in peril as more students take these classes in high school or from various online providers and as a growing number of institutions make history one of a number of options within their undergraduate core. Worse yet, many students regard the surveys as redundant and irrelevant to the majors they seek to pursue.

Yet the real problem with many survey courses is more profound: A widespread sense that these courses do not really accomplish what the gen ed curriculum is supposed to do: cultivate cultural literacy, strengthen students critical thinking and communication skills, and develop the modes of inquiry characteristic of history as a discipline—historical thinking, historical methods, and an ability to connect past to present in a nuanced manner.

A growing recognition that the conventional approach to survey courses—lectures rooted in chronology...

By Antia Wiersma

On the one day between the first European winter storm of the year and a North American snow blizzard, I flew to Washington, DC, to participate in the 2018 AHA annual meeting. The United States and the Netherlands are both dealing with difficult issues regarding structural discrimination of certain groups in society, and both are engaged in vigorous debates about history and memory in the public sphere. I came to the AHA annual meeting hoping to get some new perspectives on these issues, and to see how historians in a different political and social context are tackling these debates. 

History and Public Policy

One paper on Dutch colonial history at the annual meeting focused on interracial marriages in Batavia (now Jakarta) in the 17th century. The image depicts the Nieuwe Poort at Batavia in 1682. Weduwe van Jacob van Meurs/Atlas of Mutual Heritage and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Dutch National Library/Wikimedia Commons

I am the director of the Royal Netherlands Historical Society, the Dutch compeer of the American Historical Association. Although we are smaller, we face similar challenges as our American counterpart. One of these challenges is to continually prove the relevance of history and historical knowledge in a world that seems to revolve around tweets, opinions, and one-liners in the here and now. I chose to attend two panels that dealt...

Every week, AHA Today showcases a new grant, fellowship, or scholarship of interest to historians which has been posted to our free Calendar. This week we are featuring the Charles C. Eldredge Prize from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 

The Charles C. Eldredge Prize is awarded annually by the Smithsonian American Art Museum for outstanding scholarship in the field of American art.

A cash award of $3,000 is made to the author of a recent book-length publication that provides new insight into works of art, the artists who made them, or aspects of history and theory that enrich our understanding of America’s artistic heritage.

The Eldredge Prize seeks to recognize originality and thoroughness of research, excellence of writing, clarity of method, and significance for professional or public audiences. It is especially meant to honor those authors who deepen or focus debates in the field, or who broaden the discipline by reaching beyond traditional boundaries.

Funding for the Charles C. Eldredge Prize is provided by the American Art Forum, a patrons’ support organization of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The prize was instituted to honor Charles C. Eldredge, who founded the American Art Forum in 1986 during his tenure as director of the museum.

End: December 1, 2018
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Jonathan Hancock is an assistant professor of history at Hendrix College. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, and has been a member since 2012. 

Jonathan Hancock is an assistant professor of history at Hendrix College.

Alma maters: BA (history and religion), Dartmouth College, 2006; MA (history), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009; PhD (history), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2013

Fields of interest: 18th- and 19th-century North America, native North America, early US Republic

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I always enjoyed history classes in grade school, but I never thought about turning my interest in history into a career until I took a course with Craig Wilder (now at MIT) during my freshman year. The course—The Black Radical Tradition in America—was unlike anything I had ever encountered before. It unlocked the power of historical perspectives and introduced me to the importance of historiography and the early American roots of contemporary issues. Since then, my interests and research have ranged from that course material, and I have been incredibly fortunate to have a number of other tremendous mentors. But in teaching—and in occasionally having to remind myself why I do what I do—I think about that experience often.

What do you like the most about where you live and work? I enjoy working with earnest, hardworking students...

By Matthew Reeves

When I arrived at the headquarters of the Kansas City Chiefs Football Club it was like landing on another planet. Gone were the cinderblock walls, linoleum flooring, and flickering fluorescents of campus; in their place was a plush, tastefully designed working space shared by coaches, executives, and current players. It was nearly impossible not to be star struck by celebrity athletes, especially in a city that adores its local team. It was immediately clear to me, however, that I, like everyone else in the building, was there to work. 

Matthew Reeves at the Kansas City Chiefs football stadium.

How did a doctoral student in history find himself working at an NFL club? Over the last several years, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) history department—under the direction of professors John Herron and Chris Cantwell—has built a robust and innovative internship program that complements our classroom work with professional experience. Each internship site adds a novel dimension to the training in our department, but working in such a nontraditional environment helped me develop intellectual self-confidence and discover that I am more than just an expert in my content area.

At first, though, I was unsure if my historical training had prepared me for the tasks at hand. Along with...

By Caroline E. Janney

Last night, the National Geographic Channel aired the first episode of Katie Couric’s new six-part documentary series, America Inside Out. In Re-Righting History, Couric investigated the contentious and at times violent battles that have erupted in the past three years over the removal of Confederate symbols and names from the public landscape. Beginning with extensive coverage of Charlottesville where Couric was on site for the far-right rally ostensibly to protect a statue of Robert E. Lee, the episode offers an opportunity to reflect on how contemporary Americans continue to both romanticize and struggle to come to terms with the more complex and less triumphant aspects of the nation’s history.

Protesters opposing the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. National Geographic/Katie Couric Media

I watched this episode wearing two hats: as a scholar of Civil War memory and as someone with deep and personal ties to Charlottesville. Throughout, I found myself vacillating between historian and historical actor, attempting to place the contemporary debates within the context of 150 years of Civil War memory while simultaneously analyzing the documentary’s interpretation. But both hats kept reminding me of a core belief: memory is always about the present.

For 12 years I have taught a course titled The Civil War...

Every week, AHA Today showcases a new grant, fellowship, or scholarship of interest to historians which has been posted to our free Calendar. This week we are featuring the Thomas C. Cundy Fund for World War II Era Research Travel Grant Program from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience. 

Honoring the memory and lasting vision of Thomas C. Cundy, Sr., the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience, Department of History, Florida State University, anticipates offering at least one $500 travel grant for scholars and graduate students (ABD) to use the holdings of the Institute in 2018–2019. Among the noteworthy holdings are the Tom Brokaw Collection containing letters, photographs, and manuscripts used in the writing of the Greatest Generation. Founded in 1997, the Institute maintains one of the nation’s largest archives documenting the human dimension of World War II. For more information on the Institute’s collections, please visit the website at:

Applicants for this program should submit by May 30, 2018, a proposal of no more than five pages in the form of a letter, a current CV, and the names and addresses of three references, all in a PDF document. Graduate student applicants should also submit a letter of recommendation from their dissertation advisor or the director of graduate studies of their program. In the subject line, please include: CUNDY FUND APPLICATION-2018. Letters of recommendation for graduate student applicants should be sent directly to the Institute Director, Professor G. Kurt Piehler...

Paula Austin is assistant professor at California State University, Sacramento. She lives in Sacramento, California, and has been a member since 2009. 


Paula Austin is assistant professor at California State University, Sacramento.

Twitter: @ProfPAustin

Alma maters: MA, North Carolina Central University, 2005; PhD, Graduate Center, CUNY, 2015

Fields of interest: African American, gender, urban, race

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I came into my graduate studies after having been an adult literacy educator. I was interested in historical origins of educational disparities in poor and working class, black, and brown communities.

What projects are you currently working on? My current project is a social and intellectual history of black working class Washington, DC. It uses sociological materials that have been criticized for contributing to the pathologization of urban black poor and working-class populations. I use these materials to draw out narratives of black subjectivity and interiority of poor and working-class young people. The project looks at the analytic frameworks young people cultivated as they navigated the racial and gendered geographies of the Jim Crowed interwar capital city. The project is currently under contract with New York University Press.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? My research interests have not really shifted, although I think the field has. In African American history in...

It’s early April, and many of us history grads are learning the outcomes of jobs, fellowships, and various other academic competitions we applied for. Sometimes the news is good, but more often, we open our inboxes to the dreaded “thank you for your interest . . .” e-mail. And even though the rejection notes try to soothe us with platitudes about the limited number of opportunities and the high number of applicants, it’s difficult to receive one of these e-mails and not believe that the rejections are indicative of our worth and the quality of our work. 

The myth that academia is meritocratic can make graduate students feel like their work is not good enough, writes Christina Copland. Brad K./Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Personally, I’m no stranger to disappointments. From the start of my doctoral studies when I realized that my department was funding students at different levels to the unending stream of rejections for fellowships, for years I internalized the implicit (and sometimes explicit) message that some of us are not as good as the rest. The idea that academia is a meritocratic place is woven through our perceptions of it. It’s a level playing field, and if you work hard enough and produce good scholarship, you’ll be rewarded. Whether it’s winning fellowships, competitive slots for TA positions, or even getting a paper accepted on a...

Editor’s Note: This piece is second in a series of two posts on collaborative historical research. The first post can be found at 

By Catherine Cymone Fourshey and Christine Saidi

Between 1880 and the early 1960s, all of Africa, except Ethiopia and Liberia, was under colonial occupation by European powers. Colonial rule came with political and economic domination and contentious struggles between the colonized and colonizers over cultural and social values. Gender relations, in particular, were strikingly impacted by colonial norms and needs.

Through piecemeal policies and destructive interactions, colonial officials eroded women’s authority and presence from the public sphere. At the same time, however, anthropologists and missionaries like Audrey Richards, Elise Kootz-Kretschmer, and Father Jean Jacques Corbeil chronicled women’s authority in urban and rural communities from the Congo to Zambia and Tanzania. The archival records of these countries, thus, harbor an incongruity: ethnographic records describe powerful mothers-in-law dictating terms of marriage and expectations of labor to sons-in-law, for example, while colonial and postcolonial assessments present such women as victims of oppression. This paradox led us to conceive of a research project consisting of a collaborative survey and analysis of Bantu-speaking societies that contain clear elements and remnants of matrilineal institutions and practices. 

Photo of researchers, left to right back row: Christin Saidi, Rhonda M. Gonzales, and Catherine Cymone Fourshey with Radio...

Every week, AHA Today showcases a new grant, fellowship, or scholarship of interest to historians which has been posted to our free Calendar. This week we are featuring the John Nolen Research Fund. 

The John Nolen Research Fund provides assistance to scholars to conduct research in the John Nolen Papers and allied collections in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections of the Cornell University Library. Any qualified researcher interested in the history of city and regional planning before 1950 with a project that can be augmented by using the Nolen Papers is eligible to apply. Applications are due by April 30, 2018; awards will be made by May 31 for support to begin on July 1, 2018. For fellowship information and application requirements, please visit

End: April 30, 2018
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Every week, AHA Today showcases a new grant, fellowship, or scholarship of interest to historians which has been posted to our free Calendar. This week we are featuring the AHA’s own research grants. 

Each year, the American Historical Association awards several research grants with the aim of advancing the study and exploration of history in a diverse number of subject areas. All grants are awarded in June and may be used anytime in the subsequent 15 months for expenses related to furthering research in progress. Grants may be used for travel to a library or archive; microfilming, photography, or photocopying; borrowing or access fees; and similar research expenses—a list of purposes that is meant to be merely illustrative, not exhaustive (other expenses, such as child care, can be included). The deadline for research grant applications is February 15.

Eligibility: Only AHA members are eligible to apply for AHA research grants. Preference will be given to advanced doctoral students, nontenured faculty, and unaffiliated scholars and to those with specific research needs such as the completion of a project or discrete segment thereof. Please note: Within a five-year period, no individual is eligible to receive more than a combined total of $1,500 from all AHA research grants.

For questions, please contact the Prize Administrator.

Albert J. Beveridge Grant

The Albert J. Beveridge Grant for Research in the Western Hemisphere supports research in the history of the United States, Canada, and Latin America; individual grants do not exceed $1,000. See the list of 

Don Lankiewicz is an educational publishing consultant and affiliated faculty member at Emerson College in Boston. He lives in Needham, Massachusetts, and has been a member since 1980. 

Don Lankiewicz is an educational publishing consultant and affiliated faculty member at Emerson College in Boston.


Twitter handles: @DonLankiewicz and @EDpubIntl

Alma mater/s: BA (history), Saint Fidelis College, 1975; MA (history research), Saint Louis University, 1980

Fields of interest: publishing, baseball, biography, Civil War, aviation

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? My first job was as a high school history teacher, but I spent most of my career as a history editor/writer and educational publishing executive developing learning resources for history and the social sciences.

What do you like the most about where you live and work? New England is an almost perfect location for any historian with its regional history, universities, archives, and libraries.

What projects are you currently working on? I am currently juggling several projects: a book on the Big Bang Era of major league baseball; collected quotations about history, historians, and the past; and a college course on the history of the publishing industry in the United States.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? My interests have become more eclectic. I research and write about what I find interesting and...

“The weather’s been, uh . . . wonderful!” What would you write on a postcard sent from AHA18? What memories have you made over these four frigid days in the nation’s capital? As the 132nd AHA annual meeting comes to a close, AHA Today presents a few attendees’ favorite moments. Do you have a personal highlight from the meeting? Let us know below in the comments section, or on Twitter!

Hannah Scott, Truman State University

Can I come back again next year?
Hannah Scott, Truman State University

Hannah Scott has traveled to the DC area four times to participate in National History Day competitions, and was upset that these regular trips wouldn’t continue after she graduated from high school. To her delight, her entry from the last competition won the top prize, and she was invited to the meeting’s poster session to present her project, “The Safekeepers of History: A Monumental Stand for Cultural Preservation during the Second World War.” Her elaborate display is modeled after a mine entrance where Nazis stored stolen European artworks. She’s been charmed by historians passing by to exclaim, “You put THIS much work into your poster?”

Emily Berman,...

By Kathryn Tomasek

The poster sessions at the AHA annual meeting have evolved from a small beginning in 2006 to a far more prominent set of four Saturday sessions that will be featured in the Atrium of the Marriott Wardman Park. The visibility of these sessions and their number indicates that historians have embraced the conference poster as a vital form of scholarly communication. I welcome this adaptation as a demonstration of the vitality of our discipline. When we integrate this form into our models of research and teaching, we highlight the role of conversation at the center of our disciplinary practice. 

Of course, all of our professional work entails communication—with and about the sources we find and curate in archives, with students in classrooms, with the general public in libraries and museums and in websites and podcasts, with each other in our online and print publications, and in our conference panels and papers. Many of these forms of scholarly communication, however, often distance us from our audiences and privilege our own voices.

In poster sessions, presenters and audience members speak to one another face-to-face in a conversational format that privileges the interaction. People viewing the poster and listening to presenters have opportunities to ask clarifying questions. And presenters receive immediate feedback about their questions, their methods, and their results.

My own experiences with poster sessions began at digital humanities conferences, where I presented posters focused on using transcription and markup of local primary sources to teach paleography and...

By Antoinette Burton

If you have any doubts about the vibrancy of historical curiosity among our undergraduate majors nationwide, be sure to check out the Undergraduate Poster Session, which runs from 3:30–5:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 6, in the Atrium of the Marriott Wardman Park (Exhibition Level). Jewish pirates, Catherine de Medici, 1967 in Detroit, Egypt in 2017, indigenous communities in early colonial Connecticut—these are just a few samples of the historical subjects that have caught students’ attention and propelled them into the world of historical research, thinking, and writing. The energy and enthusiasm—and real historical insight—coming off of these projects are inspiring. And the range of topics and methods will remind you that we have much to learn from our own students. 

This year, the AHA will feature its first poster session specifically for undergraduate research. Marc Monaghan

Many if not all of the posters on display are the result of deep archival encounters you will find yourself envious of. Julia Palmerino of the College of the Holy Cross went to the National Archives in Dublin last summer to explore how Irish dance halls and especially the behavior of Irish girls and women came to be controlled by church and state. Lara Manbeck of New York University was able to travel to archives in Vietnam to research her project on commemorative naming in...

Intertwined. Overlapping. Interconnected. The complicated entanglement of slave trading, geographies, and ethnicities was the focus of the Thursday night plenary, “New Perspectives on Histories of the Slave Trade,” at the 2018 AHA annual meeting. In papers ranging in focus from trade routes in the western Indian Ocean to forced treks across Brazil’s interior to mangrove slave trading ports, the panelists revealed how histories of slave trading offer opportunities to rethink the construction of race and ethnicity from a global perspective, the broader theme of this year’s meeting.

A map on Voyages shows estimates of enslaved Africans transported across the Atlantic between 1501 and 1866.

Understanding the complexity of the slave trade—or, more accurately, as became clear in the plenary, slave trades—requires responding to the panelists’ general call to look beyond the Atlantic Crossing. The American public’s understanding of the slave trade is largely situated in the horrors of the Middle Passage and New World slavery. Indeed, as Gregory E. O’Malley (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) pointed out, this is the typical narrative recounted in textbooks. But the Atlantic Crossing is just one segment of larger, overlapping circuits of slave trading routes that shaped identities and experiences within the African diaspora and the African continent.

Geography, and the ethnicities and trade practices that overlay it, is central to these emerging perspectives...

“Are the humanities in crisis?” For the past decade, this question, and answers to it, has been posed in numerous articles and opinion pieces nationwide. Underlying it is an unspoken lament for a former, halcyon state of humanities education and research. “The State and Future of the Humanities in the United States”—a plenary session at the 2018 AHA annual meeting—however, looked decidedly toward the future: a future that certainly draws upon lessons from the past, but one that must be prepared to tackle and embrace different approaches to education, professions, and the place of the humanities in public life. The plenary featured William Adams, former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with Claire Potter (The New School) moderating the conversation. 

A plenary session at the 2018 AHA Annual Meeting on “The State and Future of the Humanities in the United States,” featured William Adams, former chair of the NEH, Earl Lewis, the president of the Mellon Foundation, and Claire Potter of The New School as moderator. Marc Monaghan

Potter began the session by asking Lewis and Adams to reflect on the contemporary university’s role in promoting a new vision for academic work. “What forms of evolution have we seen and what limits to evolution are we encountering in the academy?” she...

Through e-mail conversation from June 29, 2017, to December 5, 2017, and at meetings on January 4 and 7, 2018, the Council of the American Historical Association took the following actions:

  • Appointed the following members of the 2019 Annual Meeting Program Committee: Ada Ferrer, New York University (Latin America, Caribbean, slavery, nationalism); David Myers, University of California, Los Angeles (Jewish, intellectual, cultural, Zionism); Mark Sheftall, Auburn University and Bucknell University (military, world, British empire); and John Thabiti Willis, Carleton College (Africa, diaspora, religion).
  • Approved revisions to the AHA’s open and third-party letters policy for Perspectives on History.
  • Approved an amendment to the FY18 Capital Budget to include $42,075 to upgrade the AHA’s association management software and directories.
  • Approved signing on to a letter from the Coalition for International Education to members of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce in support of funding for Title VI.
  • Approved a Statement on Confederate Monuments on the role of history and historians in public conversations about removing or recontextualizing monuments or renaming public spaces.
  • Approved signing on to a statement with other scholarly associations opposing a proposal under consideration by the US Senate to tax graduate student tuition waivers as income, a provision included in the tax reform bill already passed by the US House of Representatives. During the earlier House debate, the Association had urged the full membership to contact their Representatives in opposition to the proposed tax.
  • Approved...

By Claire Potter and Brian Ogilvie

Chairing a conference program committee is a humbling experience, both because of the fine people in it, and because of the opportunities it provides to encounter thoughtful and engaging scholarship. Building the program of the American Historical Association’s annual meeting, especially, offers an opportunity to see what our colleagues are thinking about across the many fields and subspecialties represented in the Association’s membership. We want to congratulate the 2018 committee for the excellent meeting program in Washington, DC, and are eager to read the proposals we receive for #AHA19. We are particularly excited about meeting in the same city and at the same time as the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, and the opportunities this offers for cross fertilization by reaching out to colleagues who might be attending that conference. 

The deadline for proposal submissions for the 2019 annual meeting is midnight, February 15, 2018.

The deadline for this year’s submissions is midnight, February 15, 2018; the call for papers and the composition of the full committee, which meets in April to determine the program for AHA19, can be found on Those submitting are reminded that the theme, “Loyalties,”...