Day 1: Highlights of the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City

Historians in the News
tags: AHA2015

Rick Shenkman is the editor of HNN. 

Related Link:  HNN's coverage of the AHA convention:  Videos, News, Everything

A great turnout at the convention!  As of the close of business Friday 5,400 people had registered.  These are about the best numbers the AHA has ever seen with the exception of the 2009 convention, which was also held in New York.

The flip side of this good news is it was a day of lines: A long line to register for the conference, a long line to register at the Hilton, and a long line at the desk of the Hilton luggage concierge after people who waited on the long line for a room were told their room wasn't ready ... but they could stow their luggage!


There were enough problems with getting a room at both the Hilton and the Sheraton that the AHA director, Jim Grossman, felt compelled to issue an email bulletin to members midday:

Twitter proved to be an outlet for frustration, which began the day before, when Mark Sample tried to get a room:

News Flash  I just got word from the AHA that the Council has decided not to place the anti-Israel resolutions submitted to the Sunday Business Meeting on the official agenda.  They'll still be debated, as we reported the other day. 

Foreign affairs was the chief subject of the panel convened to discuss The Nation's critique of foreign policy over its 150 year history.  

Professor Stephen F. Cohen, who's been called Putin's lapdog, lambasted the New York Times and the Washington Post for "journalistic malpractice" in connection with their coverage of the Ukraine crisis. You can watch his remarks here:

The panel also featured presentations by Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Sara Halpern, Juan Cole, Greg Grandin, and Calvin Trillin.

Earlier in the day Ukraine was also the subject of another panel concerned with the misuse of history by all sides in what one historian called an Information War.  Being a historian in a war like that, said the University of Chicago's Faith Hillis, is problematic.  The propagandists want to do exactly the opposite of historians:  They want to simplify stories and historians want to nuance them.  In this video the University of Maryland Kate Brown explains that one reason for the mythologizing of history is that both Russians and Ukrainians want to rewrite what happened in World War II:

Brown University's Omer Bartov said what's needed is for historians to set the record straight.  He and others fear that until the truth about the past is faced people won't be able to move forward.  As proof of the power of history to reshape public debates, Bartov cited the work of Israeli Benny Morris.  After Morris no one could deny any longer that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 had been evicted from their homes.  (Morris defends the evictions.)

You could follow a lot of what happened at Friday's sessions by dipping into Twitter (#AHA2015), which proved to be a fountain of fascinating tidbits like this:

There were also stunning moments of profound reflection mixed with observations of harsh ironies:

But this was our favorite tweet of the day:

Alas, Samantha did not snap a picture. 

More, tomorrow!

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