National History Center

From Decolonization to Getting It Right: The Center's Sessions in New Orleans

Marian J. Barber, October 2012

The National History Center will sponsor 10 sessions at the AHA's annual meeting in New Orleans, on topics ranging from decolonization to the Eurozone crisis to the state of print journalism in 21st-century America. For the first time, the Center will have a session in each of the meeting's time slots.

The presentations at the Center's Thursday sessions will eventually be turned into volumes for "Reinterpreting History," its historiography series with Oxford University Press. Organized by OUP executive editor Susan Ferber, the roundtables are "New Perspectives on the 'Progressive Era,'" chaired by Bruce J. Schulman (Boston Univ.), 1 to 3 p.m., and "Theorizing the History of War and the Environment," chaired by William M. Tsutsui (Southern Methodist Univ.), 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

On Friday morning, alumni of the Center's international seminar on decolonization will present two sessions. The first, 8:30 to 10 a.m., was organized by Stefanie K. Wichhart (Niagara Univ.) and Jennifer L. Foray (Purdue Univ.). Entitled "Decolonizing Rhetorics: War, Empire, and Internationalism," it will be chaired by Erez Manela (Harvard Univ.), who will also comment. Jennifer M. Dueck (Univ. of Manitoba) and Shereen Ilahi (North Central Coll.) arranged the second, "Creating, Understanding, and Enacting Discourses of Decolonization." Ussama S. Makdisi (Rice Univ.) will chair and comment, 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Friday afternoon, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., will be devoted to "The World of Oral History: An International Roundtable," organized by Donald A. Ritchie, historian of the U.S. Senate and former president of the Oral History Association (U.S.). The session will feature leading oral historians from the Czech Republic, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, including the current presidents of both the International Oral History Association and the Oral History Association (U.S.) Anthony Grafton (Princeton Univ.) will chair and Ritchie will comment.

Saturday's sessions will mainly be part of the Center's "Historians, Journalists, and the Challenges of Getting It Right" initiative, a joint venture with the AHA and the Norman Lear Center and Center on Communication Leadership and Policy at the University of Southern California. The first, "The Jews in Europe: 1939," 9 to 11 a.m., will be chaired by Martin Kaplan, director of the Lear Center and will feature historian Bernard M. J. Wasserstein of the Univ. of Chicago discussing themes of his book, On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War. British journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft and Andrew Nagorski, author of Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power, will comment.

John Voll and John Esposito, historians of Islam at Georgetown University, will present "The West and Islam in Historical Perspective," 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Julia Clancy-Smith (Univ. of Arizona) will chair and Juan R. I. Cole (Univ. of Michigan at Ann Arbor) , who runs the blog "Informed Comment," will offer a journalist's perspective. William H. Chafe (Duke Univ.) will chair "The Special Challenges of Biography," a roundtable focusing on the challenges faced by biographers seeking access to their subjects' papers and those charged with granting or denying such access, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Panelists will include Paul Levy of the Wall Street Journal, the co-literary executor of Lytton Strachey; and biographers H. W. Brands (Univ. of Texas at Austin), Pamela Scully (Emory Univ.), and Jane S. De Hart (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara).

On Sunday, James J. Sheehan of Stanford Univ. will chair "Roots of the Eurozone Crisis: Jean Monnet, Helmut Kohl and the European Monetary Union," 8:30-10:30 a.m. Sherrill Brown Wells (George Washington Univ.) will present "Jean Monnet and the Promotion of Monetary Union, 1957-79." Klaus W. Larres (Univ. of Carolina at Chapel Hill) will discuss "Crisis Politics: The EU in the Post-Cold War World from the Maastricht Treaty to the Euro Debacle." Robert L. Hutchings (Univ. of Texas at Austin) will comment.

The Center's sessions will conclude with "The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers," 11 a.m to 1 p.m., inspired by the decision of the New Orleans Times-Picayune to cut back from daily publication to three times a week, augmented by online content. Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism at the University of Southern California, will chair. Scheduled participants include Times-Picayune editor James Amoss; journalism historian David Paul Nord of Indiana Univ. and the History News Service; and Steven Lagerfeld, editor of The Wilson Quarterly (which has recently become an all-digital publication and will be available as an app for tablet computers).

Marian Barber is the associate director of the National History Center.