Washington — Past business meetings at the American Historical Association’s annual conference have been barnburners. At last year’s conference, the business session was overtaken by heated debate over proposed resolutions against campus speech codes and the Iraq war. By contrast, this year’s business meeting, held here on Saturday afternoon, was a peaceable and genteel affair, attracting only a few dozen members and zero controversy.
Arnita A. Jones, the association’s executive director, announced that the association’s effort to expand its membership by diversifying the format of the annual conference and increasing e-mail communication with members has had modest success. The AHA has upped its membership to 15,000 historians and finished the year with a $116,000 budget surplus, she said.
Robert A. Schneider, a professor of history at Indiana University at Bloomington and editor of the association’s American Historical Review, reported that the journal was completing its transition to publishing with the University of Chicago Press after its decision this past summer to stop self-publishing with JSTOR.
And Anthony T. Grafton, a historian at Princeton University and the vice president of the association’s professional division, reported that, in the years since the division had abandoned adjudicating plagiarism allegations, it had turned its sights to bettering professional standards for historians in academe. In particular, he said, the association had created a task force to monitor working conditions for disabled scholars. He also announced that his division would follow up on its recent report on job prospects for doctoral students in history with a report on the tenure process.
The sole hint of spark came from Rick Shenkman, editor of the History News Network, which has been providing daily reports on the conference at its blog. Mr. Shenkman delivered a fervent plea to the association’s governing council to reconsider restrictions on videotaping at the conference. “I have waited years to stand up and defend the First Amendment before a governing body,” said Mr. Shenkman.
His battle was swiftly won, however. “I’m certainly amenable to revisiting the issue,” said Barbara S. Weinstein, a history professor at New York University. The meeting was her last official act as the AHA’s 2007 president before handing over the gavel to the new president, Gabrielle M. Spiegel of the Johns Hopkins University. —Paula Wasley