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William H. Chafe: Concerned about the future of the AHA despite years of balanced budgets

Historians in the News




If you care about the American Historical Association, and indeed, if you care about the state of the historical profession, we need your help in assessing the health and future direction of the AHA.
On the surface the Association seems quite healthy, with a large membership, superb publications, and almost a decade of balanced budgets. Beneath that surface, however, there is real cause for concern. Over the past decade, membership remained essentially flat and subscriptions to the American Historical Review fell, even as the number of professional historians (in a wide variety of work contexts) grew significantly. At the same time, the Association finds itself buffeted by new challenges facing the profession, from a changing employment picture to the selling and reclassification of historical materials. This is occurring as a new generation rises to prominence in the profession (almost 60 percent of the AHA's membership earned their degrees since 1990) and changes in the technologies of communication reshape the way the AHA interacts with its members.

The Association needs to confront these challenges in a serious and thoughtful way, so in the coming months I will be chairing a "working group" of AHA members to address these issues. This working group will consist of Jim Grossman (Newberry Library), Lynn Hunt (UCLA), Earl Lewis (Emory Univ.), Danielle McGuire (Rutgers Univ.), Paula A. Michaels (Univ. of Iowa), Stefan Tanaka (Univ. of California at San Diego), and executive director Arnita Jones. The working group is small, because we want to prepare a final report and recommendations with sufficient quality and authority to command assent—a characteristic rare in documents written by large committees. To truly function, however, we will need your advice and input....

Read entire article at AHA Perspectives

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