From the News column of the January 2004 Perspectives
Comprehensive Report on Graduate Education in History Published
AHA Staff, January 2004
Four decades after it first published a detailed examination of the state of graduate history education in the United States, the AHA again brings to the community of historians a comprehensive report on the current situation. The culmination of a multiyear inquiry into the structure and nature of graduate history education today, The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century has just been published by the University of Illinois Press for the AHA. A special workshop dedicated to a discussion of the issues raised in the book is being held (just before the 118th annual meeting commences) on January 8, 2004 in the Maryland Suite A of the Marriott Wardman Park from 1:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. All interested in the challenges of graduate education in history are invited to attend the workshop.
The 1962 report on the subject addressed such issues as the supply and demand for teachers, student recruitment, and the best training for advanced degrees, and set a benchmark for judging the study of history. But the passage of time required a new inquiry. With a substantial grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the AHA set up a committee—the Committee on Graduate Education—to examine and report upon these and other related issues. The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century carefully documents and incisively analyzes the conclusions of this recent study based on the intensive work of the committee.
Both the American academy and the study of history have been dramatically transformed since the original investigation, but doctoral programs in history have barely changed. This report explains why, and offers concrete, practical recommendations for improving graduate education. The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century stands as the first exploration of graduate training for historians in more than 40 years and the best available study of doctoral education in any major academic discipline.
The report reflects the views and efforts of a cross-section of the entire historical profession. It builds upon a detailed review of the existing research and data on graduate education, plus an unprecedented and exhaustive survey of history doctoral programs. The authors visited history departments across the country and consulted with hundreds of individual historians, graduate students, deans, academic and nonacademic employers of historians, as well as other stakeholders in graduate education.
In the last 40 years, the ethnic and gender composition of both graduate students and faculty has changed, historical methodologies have been challenged and refined, and the boundaries of historical inquiry have expanded. The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century addresses all of these revolutionary intellectual and demographic changes. Combining a detailed snapshot of the profession with a rigorous analysis of recent changes, this volume should become the definitive guide to strategic planning for history departments. It includes practical suggestions for managing institutional change as well as advice for everyone involved in the advanced training of historians, from department chairs to graduate students, and from university administrators to the AHA itself.
Although focused on history, there are lessons here for any department. The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century is a model of in-depth analysis for doctoral education, with recommendations and analyses that will have implications for the entire academy. Historians, graduate students, university administrators, or anyone interested in the future of higher education will derive much from this book.