Committee on International Historical Activities 2007

The major function of the AHA’s Committee on International Historical Activities is to work as a national committee in helping prepare the program for the quinquennial meeting of the International Congress of Historical Studies, or ICHS (better known by the French acronym, CISH). The next international congress will take place in Amsterdam in the summer of 2010. Accordingly, the committee’s chair and the AHA’s executive director attended an organizing meeting, along with 35 or so representatives of other national committees, in Beijing in September, 2007. The meeting was hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (see the report about the Beijing meeting in the November 2007 issue of Perspectives).

In consultation with the executive director, the committee issued a call for proposals to the AHA membership with a submission deadline of December 15, 2007. The proposals were to be submitted electronically to the committee chair. Since the initial response to the call for proposals was somewhat tepid, the submission deadline was extended to January 15, 2008, and members were informed about the extension through a special e-mail message as well as a notice posted on the AHA web site (at http://www.historians.org/Perspectives/issues/2007/0710/0710cish.cfm).

Interestingly, the response to the second CFP with the extended deadline was much more robust than the initial one, leaving the impression that members had either overlooked it in the first version published in Perspectives, or developed a sudden interest in the CISH meeting in the last weeks of 2007. Whatever the case, the committee received a respectable number of submissions, both in the form of proposals for complete panels and for individual papers. When all was said and done the committee received one proposal for a major theme, eight for specialized themes, five for round-tables, one for a joint session with a specialized thematic society (these were to be made in fields such as the history of sport, for example), and about 30 for individual papers (some papers for more than one possible session, a few proposers with more than one paper idea). As with any such program exercise there were also a large number of preliminary inquiries or expressions of interest that failed to produce concrete proposals. The overwhelming majority of the proposers were from the United States, but there were a few from other countries as well. Most of the proposals originated from scholars working in college or university settings, a few from secondary schools, research institutes, and so forth.

The job of the committee was to vet these proposals, select what we thought were the best ones, rank them, and forward them as a slate to the CISH Directorate at the University of Québec. These deliberations took place during January and February. The members of the committee reached a surprisingly early and strong consensus on which proposals in all categories we found interesting and viable for the Congress, although there were differences of opinion on a few. We used a numerical scoring system and after an initial round of ratings revisited the few proposals on which there was some divergence in the cumulative scores. Our final slate of proposals consisted of 29 items, so that we achieved a final acceptance rate of about 70 percent. The committee judged it advisable not to attempt to construct complete panels by combining individual papers, since the CISH committee reviewing all the national slates will have a much better overview of what can be combined with what. I have notified all the people who made submissions, thanking them for taking the time to do this (in some cases putting together panels of several scholars) and for providing us with a strong pool of proposals. Final decisions will be made by the CISH committee charged with putting together the program for Amsterdam, and will be conveyed to proposers by the late spring. We on the committee feel that the slate forwarded under AHA auspices offers a rich variety of themes and approaches (within the rather specific guidelines established by the Congress organizers) and will represent the U.S. academic community (as well as the non-U.S. scholars whose proposals we approved) very well.

—Eric Van Young