A Grim Year on the Academic Job Market for Historians





[Robert B. Townsend, the AHA’s assistant director for research and publications, received his PhD from George Mason University in May 2009. Directory Editor Liz Townsend and Staff Assistant Maddalena Marinari assisted with the data gathering for this report.]

The number of job openings in history plummeted last year, even as the number of new history PhDs soared. As a result, it appears the discipline is entering one of the most difficult academic job markets for historians in more than 15 years.

During 2008–09 job advertisements fell by 23.8 percent—from a record high of 1,053 openings in 2007–08 to 806 openings in the past year. This was the smallest number of positions advertised with the AHA in a decade.1 To make matters worse, a subsequent survey of advertisers indicates that about 15 percent of the openings were cancelled after the positions were advertised.

Even as the number of openings fell sharply, the number of new PhDs reported to the annual Directory of History Departments, Historical Organizations, and Historians increased by more than 17 percent, from 741 in the 2007–08 academic year to 869. This was the largest year-to-year increase since we began tabulating this information in the Directory in 1975. More than half the listing departments reported an increase in the number of PhDs conferred, as compared to less than a third reporting a decline...



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