Preparing Your Proposal for the Year 2000 Annual Meeting

Patrick Manning, September 1998

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by Patrick Manning, who drew upon his experience as a member of the Program Committee. With the author's permission, the cochairs of the Program Committee for the 114th annual meeting have revised the essay.

Guidelines

All panelists must be AHA members except for foreign scholars and colleagues from other disciplines. Foreign scholars should be approached at an early point so that they can seek travel funds from their institutions or other sources. The AHA does not have funds for this purpose.

No one may appear on the program of two successive AHA meetings or twice on the program of one annual meeting, except as chair of a session. Because not everyone knows or remembers this rule, a panel organizer must confirm each participant's eligibility. The Program Committee enforces this rule virtually without exception. (The one exception that is regularly granted is for persons appearing on sessions sponsored by one of the AHA divisions and committees.)

To reinforce the obvious: clarity and neatness count. A clear layout and a lucid presentation assist the committee to appreciate the content of a proposal. Those submissions that are well organized and well written have a greater chance of being chosen than those that are not.

The committee strongly prefers one-page c.v.'s, which should include the doctoral institution, date of degree, and important recent publications. There is no need to include information on minor papers and reviews, university service, courses taught, and so on.

There is no set format for panels. However, the committee encourages submissions that have three papers, one commentator, and a chair; such panels maximize participation and encourage the diffusion of original research while encouraging a focused and coherent discussion. The committee also welcomes panels that consist of one or two papers that address major topics and are presented by well-established scholars. Other types of formats—for example, roundtable discussions of important topics or books—will also be considered.

Panels submitted without a chair or commentator are less likely to be accepted by the committee. The chair and commentator should be different people and both should have scholarly knowledge of the subject (so that the chair can serve as a substitute commentator, if necessary). Senior commentators who have a broad command of the literature are generally preferred by the committee and are more convincing to audiences than are junior commentators. The commentator should not be the dissertation adviser (and preferably should not share the institutional affiliation) of any member of the panel.

The committee urges members to form panels that reflect the intellectual and social diversity of the profession and encourage scholarly exchange among individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives. The committee welcomes panels that are integrated by gender and race, contain individuals from different parts of the country, and have papers presented by both junior and senior scholars. (Please see subsections 6d and 6e of the Program Committee Guidelines on p. 36.)

Authors of single papers in search of a panel may wish to post a notice to the appropriate H-Net list in their field.

This year there is only one deadline for the AHA program; all proposals must be postmarked on or before February 15, 1999. Because there is only one deadline, single papers and incomplete panels are less likely to be accepted.

Comments on Content

Papers should present new research or offer new perspectives and interpretations.

The content and coherence of the papers form the intellectual rationale of each panel. Panels might include three papers that address a common issue in a given place and time, or they might consist of three analyses of a problem in a range of places, with the presentations linked by a common methodological approach or narrative strategy.

The committee recommends linking questions of scholarly interpretation and perspective to teaching strategies, so that the implications of the research for classroom use are readily apparent. (Please see section 7 of the Program Committee Guidelines.)

Because the AHA serves a wide audience of historians, panels are more competitive if they engage issues of broad interest rather than if they are addressed to specialists in a given field.

The committee encourages scholars working in small fields (those that have relatively few historians active in the United States) to devise panels that bring their research and perspectives to the attention of those in larger fields. Appropriately designed panels will attract a sizable audience. In this regard, the committee notes that a survey of AHA programs since 1980 by Patrick Manning and Patrick Preston found a remarkable consistency in the regional distribution of panels and the proportion of global and comparative panels. They also discovered that there have been relatively few panels in African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European history, and few sessions on historical periods prior to 1500. We hope this pattern can be altered and strongly urge scholars working in these fields and periods to submit proposals.