From the President's column in the April 1996 Perspectives

The AHA and Its Affiliates Have Never Needed One Another More

Caroline Walker Bynum, April 1996

On January 5, the leadership and staff of the AHA held an open meeting with representatives of AHA affiliates as part of the annual meeting in Atlanta. The meeting was extremely well attended and the discussion lively. President-elect Joyce Appleby, who will chair the Committee on Affiliated Societies in 1996, and I hope that this discussion will inaugurate not only a closer relationship between the AHA and its affiliates but also a determined and energetic effort on the part of every institutional member of the AHA to promote national awareness of the importance of historical research and education.

The AHA and its affiliates have never needed each other more. History teaching, our national commitment to the preservation of historical records, funding for basic research, and opportunities to publish both monographs and serious, creative syntheses have been deeply threatened, as we all know, during the past year. But that threat has made us stronger. We have begun to pay less attention to the issues of methodology and academic politics that divided us in the sixties and eighties and more to our common values. In our effort to speak up for scholarship and teaching, each of us needs both affiliated society memberships and the AHA umbrella organization.

We all need specialized groups that represent our specific commitments as teachers and scholars. Our membership in an area studies association, a society for history education at the secondary level, or a study group on gender will be the place where we explore new techniques particular to our type of teaching or keep strong the specific questions dear to our area of scholarship. But we all need the AHA as well to speak up loudly for academic freedom, for jobs, for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Archives, for scholarly publishing--in short, for those protections and funds without which none of our students will be well taught and none of our specializations will survive. Someone in Atlanta asked me whether I didn't feel dismayed at the demand that the AHA be "all things to all people." My answer was, "Look at the roster of affiliates. It already is!"