UPDATED 1/10/07 Activists who celebrated the passage of an antiwar resolution at the Business Meeting of the American Historical Association on Saturday may now wonder how significant the vote actually was. On Sunday morning the council of the AHA voted to accept the resolution only if it is ratified by the full membership in an email vote. AHA President Barbara Weinstein told HNN in an email Jan. 10, 2007: "Our reasons for this were two-fold: the resolution had been submitted too late to be published in the December Perspectives, as was the case with the two other resolutions, and a majority of the Council felt that, given the importance of the issue, that a full vote of the membership was called for."
Critics have long complained that the actions taken at the Business Meeting on controversial and political subjects are meaningless since so few members attend. Of the 4800 members in attendance at the annual meeting, fewer than 200 were present for the Business Meeting.
The resolution, which was backed by the radical Historians Against the War, urges a speedy end to the conflict and chides the Bush administration for repeated violations of human rights. Opponents of the resolution argued at the Business Meeting that the organization should not spend its moral capital on issues extraneous to the functions of a professional society. Advocates of the resolution retorted that the war has raised important issues vital to the practice of history.
The council gave a positive response to the other two resolutions passed at the Business Meeting. The council accepted the compromise resolution critical of free speech zones. And the council agreed to study the proposal to subscribe to the Informed Meetings Exchange (INMEX), which is closely associated with the pro-labor group behind the recent wave of hotel strikes.
In response to the news that Atlanta police had arrested historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto for jaywalking, the council decided to send a letter of protest to local officials who had helped stage the convention with the understanding the AHA's concerns would be passed along to the appropriate city authorities.
On Thursday the council weighed in on the controversy involving the No Child Left Behind Act. Officials directed Arnita Jones, the executive director of the organization, to urge Congress to include history among the subjects students should be expected to master. While many historians object to NCLB, which requires constant testing, the council believes that so long as the tests are required history should be included. In many school districts money for history has dried up as schools shifted resources to the subjects tested under the act.