Appreciating Historians

Earl A. Reitan, May 2000

To the Editor:

I am writing to express my appreciation for the superb obituaries of historians that have been appearing for some time in Perspectives.

The obituaries bring back the achievements of the people who have been an important part of my professional career. I am confident that they are welcome to the members of the AHA who studied with these historians. And they should be inspiring to young men and women who want to follow in the footsteps of these distinguished predecessors.

My concern is that some day someone will say: "Why are we publishing these long obituaries? They take up too much space. Perspectives should be concerned with the activities of the present and the future, not the past." This argument will gain force as the number (and perhaps the length) of obituaries increases.

However this question is answered, the obituaries should continue to be published, including both the scholarly achievements and personal traits of the deceased. As historians, we are acutely concerned with the preservation of the past, even as it concerns ourselves. I leave it to others to decide how best to publish the splendid obituaries of the American Historical Association.

—Earl A. Reitan
Normal, Ill.