Research Division 2007

By Teofilo Ruiz

The AHA Research Division is a curious creature indeed—seemingly covering most of what we do as historians, but rooted in many of the basic activities of the Association. It oversees the work of the AHR, the annual meeting, and the prizes. Because of these diverse commitments, over the past year we have spent a great deal of time balancing our efforts between working on two large projects that, we hope, will provide enduring contributions to the discipline, and keeping track of the other areas that fall under the division’s purview.

The more ambitious of these two projects under development was described in great detail in the December 2007 issue of Perspectives. Co-sponsored with the Teaching Division, this is a major research and pedagogical initiative centered on the theme, “Sites of Encounter and Cultural Production.” This proposal, which is now at the stage of seeking funding to implement it, proposes a long-term collective research and teaching program that would advance the discipline’s methodological boundaries and integrate research and teaching at the K–16 level. We hope that this particular research and teaching proposal will bring together historians from a variety of workplaces (K-16 to graduate training), chronological periods, and diverse methodological perspectives.

The other initiative is an effort to support and promote the scholarship of junior scholars employed at institutions that do not encourage or support research. Working alongside the other two Divisions, we are developing an initiative to assist young historians in those kinds of institutions. Our proposal includes:

  • Organizing summer seminars to provide research support and mentorship; funding for scholars at non-research institutions to attend the AHA Annual Meeting.
  • Preparing a directory of senior scholars willing to serve as mentors to young historians in these positions.
  • Counseling and advice on publishing, access to collections, research abroad, and other important aspects of a productive scholarly life; and finally,
  • Monitoring—in conjunction with the Professional Division—standards for tenure in history departments throughout the United States to ensure that there is a sensible balance between the expectations for tenure and the support available to younger historians in those departments.

Alongside these activities, the division continues to support the various activities that fall under its jurisdiction. Robert Schneider will discuss the new publishing agreement between the AHA and the University of Chicago Press in his report, but the members of the division, as we all should be, are exceptionally grateful for Schneider’s good efforts and stewardship of the American Historical Review. This new arrangement should provide a solid financial foundation for the Review while continuing to maintain our commitment to provide open access to the AHR’s articles to a wider audience.

The division also continues to encourage and support reforms in the annual meeting. One of my goals as vice president has been to promote greater international participation at the meeting, and this year I was able to secure funding from the Spanish government to bring four young scholars from Spain for panels on late medieval and early modern history. It is a small start, but I hope in the future that the Association can continue these sorts of initiatives to promote greater contact and engagement with scholars from other parts of the world. In addition, and as many of you know, there was also some controversy about language in the Annual Meeting Guidelines that promotes diversity at the meeting. To address those concerns, the division proposed, and Council approved, a modest change that will clarify the language and also bring it into conformity with the AHA’s long-standing “Statement on Diversity in AHA Nominations and Appointments.”

Our oversight of the various AHA prizes also consumed a significant amount of time. The Gutenberg-e program is entering its final year, and it appears that all 36 of the originally planned electronic monographs will be available online by March 2008. Members of the AHA staff are continuing to work with Columbia University to ensure that these publications are given all the necessary support and that they reach a wide audience. We also received an unusual number of queries about the establishment of new prizes over the past year. One of the most recent prize proposals to receive tentative approval is the Roy Rosenzweig Prize for History and New Media, which will be a joint prize with the George Mason University if it is fully funded. We also continue to follow fund-raising efforts for the proposed prize in African history. After a good start, contributions to this particular prize fell off considerably over the past year.

In closing, I should particularly wish to thank Paula Sanders, who will be rotating off of the division this year for her many and insightful contributions to the workings of our committee, to Andrew Bell, the research associate to the division who is now starting an academic career. They provided invaluable service to the Research Division, and we will miss their advice and good counsel. Most of all, I wish to thank Arnita Jones and other members of the AHA staff who are the real heart and caretakers of our collective enterprise, and, of course, most of all to Robert Townsend. Without him, I do not think the Research Division could function at all, and I may still be spending the last two years of my life trying to find my way to Washington and learning how to do this job. But most of all, I do not wish to end this report without joining the many of you who miss Roy Rosenzweig and are, and will always be, eternally grateful for his many selfless contributions to our discipline and inspired leadership of the AHA Research Division.