The gargantuan American Historical Association (AHA) 2012 conference has now wrapped up, and numerous journalists and historians are providing assessments of the conference and the state of the discipline of history. An estimated 4,700 historians (including professors, instructors, public historians, and graduate students) attended the conference in Chicago last week.
The AHA Today website, History News Network, Chronicle of Higher Education, WGN, and Chicago Tribune all provide coverage of AHA 2012. An article in the New York Times reported on a session dealing with archives and government secrecy in the United States.
I would especially point to an article by Jennifer Howard in the Chronicle of Higher Education and an article by Ron Grossman in the Chicago Tribune, which also features a rare photo of ongoing interviews in the “job pit” at AHA:
Many universities and colleges hold their candidate interviews in hotel suites to avoid the cramped environment and general din of the “job pit”, but the suites are more expensive and some university administrators refuse to pay for better interviewing spaces. I was pleased that Northern Illinois University was able to conduct candidate interviews for all three of its searches in suites rather than in the “job pit”.
The AHA conference included numerous panels on new research, teaching techniques, digital humanities, and professional issues. I chaired a panel on “Creating Communities through Coercion in Seventeenth-Century France,” with presentations by Elizabeth Churchich, Jim Coons, and John McCormack. The session was well attended and the presentations provoked an excellent discussion with interventions by Orest Ranum, Jonathan Dewald, and others. I was only able to make it to one other panel this year: “New Frontiers in the Environmental History of the Renaissance,” a fascinating session on environmental history in early modern Italy, Spain, and England.
The Book Exhibit is always a highlight of an AHA conference, allowing graduate students and professors to see the new books out in their research and teaching fields. Advanced dissertators and assistant professors often seek out editors from university presses at the Book Exhibit, hoping to attract interest in their book manuscripts. Instructors and professors browse the presses’ displays, considering books for adoption in their courses.
AHA is also somewhat of a class reunion for professors, who attend receptions hosted by specialized historical associations and universities. I was able to attend the reception of the Society for Italian Historical Studies on Saturday evening to see some of my Italianist friends and colleagues from Firenze. I also saw many of my peers from the graduate program of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I did my doctoral work.
I was glad to see that a number of graduate students from Northern Illinois University were able to attend the AHA and get a glimpse into the inner workings of the historical profession.