This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: Medieval News (1-7-10)
Some of the events are being held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, whose owner contributed heavily to the campaign in the state against same-sex marriage. The 1,625-room resort has been the subject of a boycott by gay-rights activists since July 2008.
There were calls for the historians to boycott the hotel and pull out of hosting the conference there, but the AHA replied that doing so would cost over $800 000, which would be too expensive. Arnita Jones, the association’s executive director, said, "We’ve been around a long time, but our members are college professors, history teachers and librarians, and we aren’t a wealthy organization."
Instead, the AHA voted for the addition of a mini-convention called AHA Working Group for Historical Perspectives on Same-Sex Marriage, which will be held in the hotel. A local same-sex rights group is expected to hold a demonstration on Saturday at the hotel.
AHA President Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said, “Historians aren’t policymakers and they don’t tell people what to do, but they can provide context, give us depth and help people see that they aren’t the first generation to be troubled by this issue.”
There are also signs that the meeting will see a significant drop in attendance. As of January 1, only 3,705 people had pre-registered. That's down from 5,400 last year, when the meeting was held in New York City, as well as the 2008 meeting held in Washington D.C, which drew 4,366. While AHA expect that hundreds of people may be registering on site, many observers believe that attendance this year will be way down, given that there are far fewer job openings and that many historians don't want to spend the money to travel this year.
The AHA also reported that there was a large decline in the number of academic job openings for historians. According to a report released earlier this month, 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.
Meanwhile there were 869 new PhD graduates from History programs in the past year, up from 741 in the 2007–08 academic year. The growing number of recent PhD graduates and the decline in job opportunities is called "troubling news" by the AHA.
The popular historian blog Nothing Recedes Like Success concludes that "it’s likely to be a bleak, long weekend in San Diego."
SOURCE: More or Less Bunk (Blog) (1-7-10)
In the 2008–09 academic year 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. To make matters worse, a subsequent survey of advertisers indicates that about 15 percent of the openings were cancelled after the positions were advertised. And while we have not finished taking advertisements this year, it will come as no surprise to anyone following the ads that job openings continue to decline.
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.
Demand down. Supply up. That’s a recipe for a lot of labor pain.
Perhaps the reason for the glut of applicants is that (via C. Vann Winchell – Fess up! You read him too!) the Wall Street Journal has named “historian” the fifth-best job in America. However, as one of the criterion they used in ranking vocations was “employment outlook,” the new AHA job report strongly suggests to me that the creators of that list are on drugs.
Marc Bousquet has read the AHA jobs report too and seems to have some of the same reaction that I did to the WSJ....
What raised my eyebrows–and those of many others doing scholarship in academic labor–was his insistence that the labor market for faculty in history is a matter of an “oversupply” of persons holding doctorates, and that the profession needs to control “the supply side of the market,” ie, “cut the number of students” in doctoral programs.
This is the sort of thing that used to get said all the time by disciplinary-association staffers–as what I call part of a “second wave” of thinking about academic labor, emerging out of discredited supply-side thought dating back to the Reagan administration. Thanks to the third wave of thought arising from graduate students and contingent faculty in the academic labor movement, you just don’t hear so much of this sort of thing anymore. In most fields, it’s pretty well understood that the real issue is an undersupply of tenure-track jobs, ie, that the issue needs to be addressed from the “demand side.” There’s no real oversupply of folks holding the PhD because what’s happened is an aggressive, intentional restructuring of demand by administrators–in many fields, work that used to be done by persons holding the PhD and on the tenure track is now done by persons without the terminal degree and contingently. Increasingly, even undergraduates are are playing a role in this restructured “demand” for faculty work, participating in the instruction of other undergraduates.
I won’t disagree with Marc on the notion that the restructuring of the academic job market for historians is a huge part of the problem. Anyone who cares more about education understands that it is better to have more tenure-track faculty teaching in their department and should support conversion of adjunct to tenure-track positions on that grounds alone. This is not because adjunct faculty are necessarily inferior teachers. It’s because professors who have job security and make a living wage can concentrate on teaching more even if they do do research and sit on committees. Would you teach better if your load was 5-5 rather than 2-3? Of course not. It’s the same principle.
Nevertheless, the degradation of academic labor in general doesn’t necessarily mean that the supply side of humanities Ph.D.s shouldn’t be more in line with demand. Every tenured professor in America could get radicalized tomorrow, but if history graduate departments keep churning out more Ph.D.s there’s still going to be a lot of pain before the ensuing revolution ever takes effect.
Marc asks a lot of good questions about the AHA’s supply numbers, to which the best I can do is refer him to the guy who helped crystalize my views on the oversupply of history Ph.Ds, Ralph Luker. Back in 2007, he wrote a post called “Wherein I Name a Dozen or More Doctoral Programs in History that Ought to be Shut Down.” Here’s the conclusion:
Most of the doctoral programs that I’ve cited are small. Closing them might not dramatically reduce the glut on the job market for young history professors. But they are marginal programs, at best, and would better serve their constituencies by concentrating on offering the best M.A. programs in history that they can muster.
The key phrase there is “serve their constituencies.” If you can place your people in full-time jobs then by all means educate them. If you can’t, don’t. Notice how Ralph wasn’t suggesting the end of graduate programs – just Ph.D. programs. You don’t need a Ph.D. to teach history at a community college, which is probably why they don’t seem to show up in the AHA’s data.
Playing the lottery costs a buck and is usually over in an instant. Going to graduate school is a lot more expensive (even if the funds do go to education in both instances) and the opportunity costs last a lifetime. Sure, some people will win the fifth best job in America when it’s over, but it’s the people who won’t hit the lottery after the convention in San Diego (or who have already lost) who need more attention from the people who teach them.
SOURCE: Nothing Recedes Like Success (Blog) (1-4-10)
It’s a grim job market out there despite the best efforts of Hopkins and a handful of other departments. Sure a few lucky senior people are packing their bags and moving to greener pastures: David Bell from Hopkins to Princeton, Naomi Lamoreaux from UCLA to Yale, Nancy Maclean from Northwestern to Duke. A yet-to-be-substantiated rumor has arrived in my inbox that despite its now legendary budget crisis, Harvard is recruiting two senior American historians from an east coast state university with a first-rate history department (more soon, I hope). But this is deck shuffling. Usually, the departure of a senior historian sets off a chain reaction in the job market, opening up jobs as people pick up and move (even if it's not the most efficient or just way to allocate academic positions). Not this year. Most departments, even those at the top of the food chain, are leaving empty chairs unfilled. Hell, they are even slowing or halting their hiring of adjuncts, who already compose a majority of university teachers. It’s really bad.
For a sobering glimpse at statistics on hiring (and these are from 2008-09), check this out. For those of you who have jobs, hold on. For those of you looking, if I believed in any God other than myself, I'd pray for you.
SOURCE: More or Less Bunk (Blog) (1-8-10)
I also take Jonathan’s point…that eliminating certain programs might do the profession good. That’s probably true in some ways in most fields–at least insofar as there are programs that might be doing a poor job of preparing future scholars–but I wonder if that’s not a different sort of conversation to have?
Closing programs doing a bad job of preparing future historians isn’t going to answer real questions (should community college faculty hold the PhD?) or seriously alter hiring patterns (who hires badly-prepared faculty anyway?).
It’s not about quality to me, but economic reality. History programs that can’t place their Ph.D.s might give them a bang-up education, but I’d contend that they aren’t doing their students any favors. While I share Marc’s institutional concerns, I can’t escape thinking about the job market on a personal level. My primary objective in a discussion like this is doing my best to prevent anyone from getting that sinking feeling that they just spent seven or eight years of their life and (depending on the school) somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000, yet the skills they just gained can barely put food on their table let alone make their health insurance affordable.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have never experienced this firsthand, but I vividly remember anticipating that feeling because it seemed very likely for a time. I got my current job from the lovely institution that eventually awarded me tenure in June! [And yes, it was advertised as a tenure track assistant professorship.] One reason that C. Vann Winchell post made me laugh (albeit nervously) is that I distinctly remember my “That’s it, I’ll go to Law School!” phase as one of the lowest points in my life.
I’ve taken some flack around here for recommending students stay as far away from graduate school in the humanities as humanly possible (except if they have some pre-existing mechanism to pay for it). I feel this way because I don’t want anything to do with training people for skills that have an incredibly limited market and will likely continue to do so for a long time to come. Despite some opposition, this attitude is not uncommon in my department. As a result, our graduate program is composed overwhelmingly of already-employed secondary school teachers who will get guaranteed raises with their (terminal) M.A. degrees.
I think Jonathan’s saying that reducing supply is more doable than addressing casualization (as Alan hints also) and would at least do no harm.
But I’m not actually sure about either prong of that observation. Including the assumption it wouldn’t be harmful.
Wouldn’t restricting supply (even if possible practically and ethically) do at minimum the harm of answering in advance certain real questions (”nope, community colleges and small schools don’t need ‘real’ historians”) and bypass others (”what should teaching and learning at those schools be like anyway?)?
Actually, my position would be let’s reduce supply AND address casualization. It’s not like I have statistics at my fingertips, but I’m pretty sure that the existing surplus of historians is big enough that if the profession cut new history Ph.D.s to zero next year [Is this starting to sound like a global warming debate?], there would still be more than enough underemployed ones left over to fill every adjunct slot in America that we could ever hope to convert to a job that pays a livable wage.
I’ve deliberately avoided the term “tenure track” in that last sentence because my criterion for success is not the tenure track; it’s whether your education will result in a position that allows you to live reasonably well and pay your mortgage. Keeping contingent labor on a contingent basis until restructuring occurs (if it ever occurs) isn’t fair to them. I think Winchell, at least, agrees with me, which is why he suggests other lines of work for rejected San Diego interviewees (just not lawyer, teacher or roustabout).
Now you’ve done it Marc! My head hurts again. Therefore, I think I’ll pass up that extra reading until the pounding stops, but maybe take it up again when I have enough Advil handy to tackle the rest of the discussion.
SOURCE: InsideHigherEd.com (1-7-10)
SOURCE: Historiann (Blog) (1-7-10)
First, the good news: the 2010 annual meeting of the American Historical Association is in San Diego! That’s it for the good news I’ve heard. If you’re there and not interviewing for jobs, interviewing for jobs you’re unlikely to get, or interviewing dozens of candidates for a job at your institution, at least you can do it without wearing boots and lugging a giant coat around a big hotel because you’re stuck yet again in Chicago or Boston. (Who’s with me on pushing the AHA to south and west, friends? We’ll throw Denver in there too, for you winter sports enthusiasts. How about instead of Chicago, Boston, Chicago, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, and Chicago, we have Dallas, Phoenix, San Diego/L.A., Denver, and San Francisco?)
Inside Higher Ed reports that attendance is down at the AHA this year, because of the economy and the related dearth of open positions in history. (There are also fewer drop-ins than there would be in major Eastern cities because of the West Coast location, too, and the additional travel expense for people in the Eastern and Central time zones especially.) And, the AHA itself reported that it’s “A Grim Year on the Academic Job Market for Historians,” because “[d]uring 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. To make matters worse, a subsequent survey of advertisers indicates that about 15 percent of the openings were cancelled after the positions were advertised.” Marc Bousquet at How the University Works takes issue with the AHA report’s conclusion that the problem is an oversupply of history Ph.D.s, and says that it’s not an oversupply of qualified job candidates, but that it’s an undersupply of tenure-track jobs because of university administrators’ decisions over the past 25 years to hire more contingent faculty than tenured or tenure-track faculty proportionally.
In his post, Bousquet flatters Historiann as a “really smart” person in history who thinks about these issues. I have to admit that I do little more than think and occasionally write about them–so understand that I get all of my data from Robert Townsend at the AHA, too. As to the question whether it’s the supply-side or the demand-side in history employment that ’s the cause of this crisis, my sympathies lie with Marc’s analysis. I think he also raises some great questions about which historians the AHA actually represents–my sense is that they represent most four-year institutions and people who teach there, not public historians, secondary school teachers, or community college professors, which may explain some of the biases of its data.
I wonder, though: where all these people are coming from on the supply side? Why are there still so many smart, talented people rushing off to get Ph.D.s in history? Townsend’s article notes that the numbers of history graduate students has been “have been relatively consistent over the past decade“–hovering back and forth close to 12,000. No one I know is selling graduate students on the marvellous future employment opportunities, and I don’t think I’m the only historian out there with ethical and honest friends and colleagues. (Jonathan Rees offers some interesting thoughts on the supply-side question, too–check him out. And, bookmark this gossipmonger, C. Vann Winchell: ze’s a lot less earnest and helpful than I am, but probably a lot more fun.)
So, on with the earnest and helpful: Our current “crisis,” as Townsend notes, is a variation on a theme we’ve been seeing and hearing for 20 or 30 years. From what I’ve heard from friends who finished grad school in the mid-70s and early 80s, our current crisis has nothing on what that generation faced (walking to the library through snowstorms, uphill, both ways, etc.) But seriously: the college tuition benefit of the G.I. Bill in the 1940s and 1950s, which along with Cold War funding of space and weapons research, led to a massive growth and expansion of American universities in the 1950s and 60s. When the bottom dropped out of this expansion and concurrent hiring binge in the 1970s, there was truly a “lost generation” of historians who either left the profession, or went into public history. (I think it’s this generation that elevated the stature of public history, because so many of them brought their professional training into museums, archives, and other public history ventures, which was all for the better.) Since then, we’ve seen the chronic de-funding of public universities and the withdrawal of other public education subsidies, and the rise of corporate-style management in university administration: get the most for the least by destabilizing the faculty (by shifting more of them away from tenure-track positions) and now de-skilling our work (with the rise of on-line courses.) I’d welcome additions or corrections to this short history from those of you who are survivors of the “lost generation” especially–Susan? Indyanna? Random lurkers? What have I left out that’s important for today’s whippersnappers to understand?
I have remarked to friends of mine that I feel like I won the lottery because I took my degree in December 1996, just as the job market was picking up in the later 90s. I started my first tenure-track job in the fall of 1997, and then applied in the fall of 2000 for other jobs, and came to Baa Ram U. in the fall of 2001. I hit the sweet spot almost perfectly–especially as a young woman. At that time, it seemed like I and a lot of my women friends had good luck, because the departments that hired us were either hiring in women’s history, or they were looking to diversify their faculty after not having been able to hire since the 1970s. I think the situation for young women on the academic job market has declined in the past few years–in part because people like me got hired 10 years ago, so there’s not as much of a sense of urgency to ensure an even playing field. (But that’s probably a subject for another day.)
Are there any readers at the conference? Interviewing for jobs, or interviewing candidates for jobs? What are you seeing and hearing out there?”
SOURCE: Marc Bousquet at Brainstorm (Blog) (1-7-10)
I really appreciate these thoughts, and want to emphasize how much I respect Townsend's work for AHA over the years, including his parsing of the data on many fronts-especially "privilege," which I believe informs his diss as well- or I'd probably have come on a bit stronger on the supply-side orientation.
It seems one part of the problem is the relationship of history faculty at smaller schools and community colleges to the discipline, and to the AHA as a disciplinary organization. As Alan wrote in response to my discussion of the many faculty literally off the AHA's chart:
Ph.D programs don't want that. They judge themselves by the number of dissertations completed and the number of good jobs their grads get. If a grad student finishes and gets a job at a no-name school, leaves with an A.B.D and gets a job with the State Department or gets eaten by wolves it's all the same to most programs; they don't count.
Isn't that a fairly unhealthy (not to mention undemocratic, elitist, etc) basis for reproducing one's profession?...
SOURCE: Brainstorm (Blog) (1-6-10)
This is the sort of thing that used to get said all the time by disciplinary-association staffers -- as what I call part of a "second wave" of thinking about academic labor, emerging out of discredited supply-side thought dating back to the Reagan administration. Thanks to the third wave of thought arising from graduate students and contingent faculty in the academic labor movement, you just don't hear so much of this sort of thing anymore. In most fields, it's pretty well understood that the real issue is an undersupply of tenure-track jobs, i.e., that the issue needs to be addressed from the "demand side." There's no real oversupply of folks holding the Ph.D. because what's happened is an aggressive, intentional restructuring of demand by administrators -- in many fields, work that used to be done by persons holding the Ph.D. and on the tenure track is now done by persons without the terminal degree and contingently. Increasingly, even undergraduates are playing a role in this restructured "demand" for faculty work, participating in the instruction of other undergraduates.
In this context, it was a bit unsettling to read Townsend's 2010 analysis:
The near perpetual sense of crisis in history employment over the past 20 years had very little to do with a diminishing number of jobs, or even the growing use of part-time and contingent faculty. ... The primary problem today, as it was a decade ago, seems to lie on the supply side of the market -- in the number of doctoral students being trained, and in the skills and expectations those students develop in the course of their training.
Red flag, bull, etc....
SOURCE: San Diego Union-Tribune (1-7-10)
The annual convention of the 125-year-old American Historical Association, held here for the first time, will feature a 15-session “mini-convention” on various aspects of matrimony, including how its definition has evolved through time.
These free meetings, which start today and are open to the public, came about because of where the convention is being held — the Manchester Grand Hyatt on San Diego’s waterfront.
The 1,625-room resort has been the subject of a boycott by gay-rights activists since July 2008. They targeted the hotel after its owner, developer Doug Manchester, contributed $125,000 to Proposition 8, the successful ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California.
To prepare for its 2010 conference, the historical association reserved space at the hotel in 2003. A year ago — two months after Proposition 8 had passed — some of the group’s members asked that the boycott be honored.
But canceling would have cost almost $800,000 in reservation fees and penalties, said Arnita Jones, the association’s executive director. “We’ve been around a long time, but our members are college professors, history teachers and librarians, and we aren’t a wealthy organization,” she said....
SOURCE: Dave Lieberson, writing for HNN (1-7-10)
With the decade officially over we are forced to endure the lists created by mainstream media reminding us of the many notable people who have passed away. While they include many historically influential men and women like President Reagan and journalist Walter Cronkite, the lists are also inflated by the many not-so-relevant pop stars, actors, musicians and sports stars. Lost from the ranks of great historians in the last decade were, among others, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., author and historian of liberalism in the twentieth century; John Hope Franklin, historian of race relations and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; and Louis “Studs” Terkel, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Good War . But where do our gatekeepers of history stack up at the end of the decade?
If we just look to mainstream media, we would conclude that none of these historians passed away in the last ten years. NBC, in its retrospective of the last decade, formulated a list of the 104 most important people that the world lost. While you can find the likes of Anna Nicole Smith, Bernie Mac, Dale Earnhardt and even Oxi-Clean pusher Billy Mays, none of the above-referenced historians found their way onto the list. The death of John Hope Franklin appears in some publications among the notable deaths of 2009, but his name cannot be found on a single breakdown of notable deaths from the past ten years. Author and historian Louis “Studs” Terkel failed to appear on any list compiled on the internet by mainstream media outlets around the Country. Arthur Schlesinger received a mention in a New York Times article about his death earlier this decade. However, the same article mentioned 193 other notable deaths including 24 actors and actresses, 27 musicians, 14 athletes and 5 comedians.
Without question, the world lost many great men and women over the last ten years. One of the most disappointing aspects of these losses is the media’s decision to omit the deaths of some of last century’s greatest historians. Historians have been given the momentous task of reminding the public of what came before, and how we got to where we are today…but who will remember them?
SOURCE: John Fea at The Way of Improvement Leads Home (Blog) (12-30-09)
I thought I would break this up into several posts. This post will focus on general tips for interviewing. The second post will focus on interviewing for a job at a research university. The third post will deal with interviewing for a job at a teaching college. The fourth post will deal with interviewing for a job at a church-related college, with particular emphasis on evangelical colleges. Hopefully I can complete this series before the AHA meets on January 7th in San Diego. I will do my best.
When it comes to general tips about interviewing, I would direct my readers to Ari Kelman's post at Edge of the American West. It is outstanding-- one of the best things I have read on the subject.
After you get the exciting phone call (or e-mail) inviting you to interview at the AHA, send an e-mail to the head of the search committee with some general questions. (Assuming that they did not already give you this information during the initial contact). You can tell a lot about the department based on the level of professionalism displayed by the head of the search. A good search committee chairperson should answer your questions quickly and thoroughly. Ask which members of the department will be conducting the interview. Ask how long the interview will be. Where will the interview take place? Will it be in a hotel suite or at the job center (affectionately known as the "meat market")? A good search committee chair will leave the door open for you to contact him/her with any additional questions that may arise between the initial contact and the AHA interview. Don't hesitate to take advantage of such offers, but don't appear too needy.
Once you find out who will be doing the interview, start researching. By this point you should have already familiarized yourself with the department web site, but now you want to go a bit deeper. Find out as much as you can about the people who will be seated on the other side of the table. What courses do they teach? (You do not want to propose a course that gets too close to the "turf" of another professor in the department). What are their research interests? (You may want to mention how your work has some theoretical connections to the work of a particular interviewer). All of this stuff is pretty straightforward and most good candidates do not need to be told any of this, but you might be surprised to learn just how many people come to an interview unprepared.
If you can help it, do not arrive at the conference on the day of the interview. You need time to relax in the hotel room, gather your thoughts, recover from jet lag, and get a good night's sleep. Perhaps you may want to catch a session or wander through the book exhibit. I usually spend most of the night before an interview in the hotel room. I order room service (be sure to eat healthy--if sugar makes you dreary, as it does me, don't order desert!), practice my responses to basic questions about teaching and research, and do some last minute research about the department and the interviewers. (If you have to pay $9.95 for Internet access, you may want to consider biting the bullet). I have occasionally gone outside to get some fresh air. A short walk in the general vicinity of the hotel does wonders for clearing the mind. While I know that many like to use the AHA to network and party with friends, the night before the interview is not the time to do this.
While I realize that the AHA offers an opportunity to get a hotel room at a reduced conference rate in a major American city, I am not sure it is a good idea to bring your family with you to the conference, especially if you have kids. You don't need these kinds of extra distractions and worries.
As soon as you arrive at your hotel and after you have unpacked, get a quick "lay of the land." Are you staying in the main conference hotel? Is the job center in your hotel? In the past I have literally walked from my room to the job center so I know exactly where I am going on the day of the interview. Don't underestimate the power of knowing where you are going. It is a great stress-reliever and one less thing to worry about.
I break out a nice suit for the interview. A tie is optional--it all depends on your personal sense of style. (Perhaps a female reader can weigh in with advice on what women should wear to an interview). I make sure all of my clothes are pressed and "ready to go" the night before. I would also recommend getting a haircut before the conference.
The entire interview will revolve around questions related to two themes: teaching and research. (A third theme--institutional fit--will be an important part of interviews with church-related schools. I will comment on this in a later post). How much time the interviewers spend on these themes will depend on the nature of the institution. Again, more on this in future posts.
Try your best to be relaxed during the interview, but not too relaxed. The committee needs to see that you are taking this interview seriously. Sit up straight, shake hands with all the members of the committee, and be sure to look them in the eye. You want to come across as serious, but you also want to smile. Feel free to laugh if you think something that one of the interviewers said is funny. Remember, the committee is not only looking for a good scholar and teacher, they are also looking for a future colleague. They are imagining popping their head into your office for some friendly conversation. Some of these things cannot be taught. Some people have it, some don't.
If you have not already sent the search committee copies of syllabi or scholarly works, bring them with you. When you talk about your research, pull out a copy of an article for each member of the committee and give it to them. As you talk about potential courses, provide them with a sample syllabi. Make sure you have plenty of c.v.'s with you. If your c.v. has changed significantly since you originally applied for the job, make sure that you give the committee an updated version. Having said this, try not to overwhelm the committee with too much paperwork. Save the course evaluations and statement of teaching philosophy. You should have already sent these when you applied.
Search committees, especially those from teaching college or small colleges, want to know that you are interested in the job. Make sure you come across as someone who would be eager to work at the given institution. If you have experience with this kind of institution or might connect in a unique way with the student body, feel free to bring this up. For example, if the school attracts a lot of working-class or first-generation college students and you were raised in a working-class family or were a first-generation college student, you should look for a chance to mention this.
When you leave the interview, make sure you are clear on the "timetable." When will you hear back from them with a decision? A good search committee will tell you this without you having to ask.
When the interview is finished, and this is your last interview, go have fun. If you have more interviews, go back and prepare for the next one. If you have more than one interview, your last one will probably be the best. You will learn from your previous mistakes and your answers to basic questions will be sharper.
As soon as you get home, send a thank-you note to the chair of the search committee. (You may also want to send one to the other members of the committee as well). I like to send a "snail-mail" note rather than an e-mail. It is a nice touch.
Stay tuned for our next installment: Interviewing with the research university.
SOURCE: New York Times (1-5-10)
The cause was bone cancer, said his daughter Catherine.
Mr. Sevcenko (pronounced EE-gore Shev-CHEN-ko) was unrivaled among Byzantinists for the breadth of his linguistic expertise and the variety of his interests.
Ukrainian by background and Polish by upbringing, he had command of a dozen Slavic and Western languages in their ancient, medieval and modern forms. His elegantly written essays dealt with, among other topics, late Byzantine intellectual life, early Slavic history and literature, Byzantine saints’ lives and epigraphy (inscriptions), and Byzantine-Slavic cultural relations.
Perhaps his most fascinating, if uncharacteristic, literary contribution came shortly after World War II, when he worked with Ukrainians stranded in camps in Germany for displaced persons.
In April 1946 he sent a letter to Orwell, asking his permission to translate “Animal Farm” into Ukrainian for distribution in the camps. The idea instantly appealed to Orwell, who not only refused to accept any royalties but later agreed to write a preface for the edition. It remains his most detailed, searching discussion of the book.
Ihor Ivanovic Sevcenko was born on Feb. 10, 1922, in the village of Radosc, not far from Warsaw. His parents were Ukrainian nationalists, and his father had served in the interior ministry of the short-lived independent Ukraine created after the Bolshevik revolution.
After graduating from the Adam Mickiewicz Gymnasium and Lyceum in Warsaw, where he began his studies of Greek, Latin and French, Mr. Sevcenko earned a doctorate in classical philology, ancient history and comparative linguistics from the Deutsche Karls-Universität in Prague in 1945, adding German and Czech to his store of languages.
It was on April 11, 1946, that he approached Orwell for the first time. “About the middle of February this year I had the opportunity to read ‘Animal Farm,’ ” he wrote. “I was immediately seized by the idea that a translation of the tale in Ukrainian would be of great value to my countrymen.”
Orwell agreed, and in the special preface he wrote for Mr. Sevcenko, he explained the intentions and political ideas behind “Animal Farm.” He also described the incident — the sight of a local farm boy whipping a horse — that gave him the idea of creating a fictional world in which oppressed animals rise up against their tormentors.
Orwell’s English version of the preface has been lost. It exists today as a retranslation from Mr. Sevcenko’s Ukrainian text.
Mr. Sevcenko, combining his father’s first name and his mother’s maiden name to form the pen name Ivan Cherniatyns’kyi, turned “Animal Farm” into “Kolhosp Tvaryn,” one of the first translations of the book into any foreign language. About 2,000 copies were distributed to Ukrainian readers. The remaining 1,500 copies, to Orwell’s disgust, were handed over by unwitting Americans to Soviet repatriation officers at the camps, who destroyed them immediately.
At the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, Mr. Sevcenko pursued further studies in classical philology and Byzantinology and took part in the renowned seminar in Byzantine history presided over by the great Byzantinist Henri Grégoire. In 1949 he was awarded a doctorate in philosophy and letters.
That year he came to the United States and, after teaching ancient and Byzantine history at the University of California, Berkeley, accepted a post in the department of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Michigan.
He taught from 1957 to 1965 at Columbia University, when he was named a senior scholar at Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, a center of Byzantine studies in the United States.
In 1973 he joined the classics department at Harvard as the Dumbarton Oaks professor of Byzantine history and literature. He retired in 1992.
His three marriages, to Oksana Draj-Xmara, Margaret Bentley and the art historian Nancy Patterson, ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter Catherine, of Alexandria, Va., he is survived by another daughter, Elisabeth, of Brooklyn, and three grandchildren.
Mr. Sevcenko once wrote that historians fell into two categories: “the brightly colored butterfly flitting about over a flower bed” and “the crawling caterpillar whose worm’s-eye view covers the expanse of a single cabbage leaf.”
He was both, a restlessly inquisitive but painstaking scholar whose wide-ranging interests embraced the cultural resurgence of late Byzantium, the literary (as opposed to documentary) qualities of Byzantine saints’ lives, the editing of Byzantine texts, and the history and culture of Ukraine, which he addressed in the book “Ukraine Between East and West” (1996).
His essay collections include “Society and Intellectual Life in Late Byzantium” (1981), “Ideology, Letters and Culture in the Byzantine World” (1982) and “Byzantium and the Slavs in Letters and Culture” (1991). At his death he had completed, after 20 years, a critical edition and translation of “The Life of Emperor Basil I,” the only secular biography in Byzantine literature.
SOURCE: Washington Post (1-1-10)
Dr. deVries was among the first employees hired by the IMF, joining it as an economist in 1946. She represented the agency on missions to Mexico, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Turkey, Israel, Yugoslavia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
She was appointed assistant chief of the multiple exchange rate division in 1953 and chief of the Far East division in 1957. She resigned in 1959 to care for her two young children, but she rejoined the IMF in 1963 to help write the history of the agency's first 20 years. In 1973, she was appointed the IMF's official historian, a post she held until retiring in 1987.
She wrote a number of books, including "International Monetary Fund, 1966-71" (two volumes), "International Monetary Fund, 1972-1978" (three volumes), "Balance of Payments Adjustment, 1945 to 1986: The IMF Experience" and "The IMF in a Changing World, 1945-85." She also co-wrote "The International Monetary Fund, 1945-1965" (three volumes) and "Foreign Economic Problems of the United States."
Dr. deVries taught economics at George Washington University in the late 1940s and early 1960s. She continued to write in retirement, including a regular column in the IMF retirees association newsletter.
Margaret Garritsen was born in Detroit and graduated from the University of Michigan as an American Association of University Women scholar, and she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She received a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1946.
She was named Outstanding Washington Woman Economist by Washington Women Economists in 1987, and she received the 2003 Carolyn Shaw Bell Award of the American Economics Association. She was a member of Bethesda United Church of Christ.
Survivors include her husband of 57 years, Dr. Barend A. deVries of Bethesda; two children, Christine M. deVries of Bethesda and Barton G. deVries of Antler, Okla.; two sisters; a brother; and two granddaughters.
SOURCE: AHA Perspectives on History (1-4-10)
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...
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (1-3-10)
It was a turning point in the Second World War. As the Allies prepared to invade Sicily in 1943, they wanted to dupe the Germans into thinking that their attack would be aimed elsewhere.
To carry out the deception, a plan was concocted in which a body was dumped in the sea, to be discovered by Axis forces, carrying fake 'secret documents' suggesting the invasion would be staged in Greece, 500 miles away.
Incredibly, the trick worked and the diversion of German troops to Greece has been credited by historians with playing a major part in the success of the Sicily invasion. The episode was later immortalised in the 1956 film The Man Who Never Was.
Yet to this day, just whose body was used in "Operation Mincemeat" has remained a source of secrecy, confusion and conspiracy theory.
In a forthcoming book, a historian claims to have finally established beyond any reasonable doubt the identity of the person who 'played' the part of the dead man: a homeless Welshman called Glyndwr Michael.
The body, which was given the identity of a fake Royal Marine called 'Major William Martin', was dropped into the sea off Spain in 1943.
Winston Churchill had remarked that "Anyone but a bloody fool would know it was Sicily", but after the tides carried Major Martin's body into the clutches of Nazi agents, Hitler and his High Command became convinced Greece was the target. "You can forget about Sicily. We know it's in Greece," proclaimed General Alfred Jodl, head of the German supreme command operations staff.
"Mincemeat swallowed, rod, line and sinker" was the message sent to Churchill after the Allies learned the plot had worked.
In recent years, there have been repeated claims that Mincemeat's chief planner, Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu, was so intent on deceiving the Germans that he stole the body of a crew member from HMS Dasher, a Royal Navy aircraft carrier which exploded off the Scottish coast in March 1943, and lied to the dead man's relatives.
In 2003, a documentary based on 14 years of research by former police officer Colin Gibbon claimed that 'Major Martin' was Dasher sailor Tom Martin.
Then in 2004, official sanction appeared to be given to another candidate, Tom Martin's crewmate John Melville. At a memorial service on board the current HMS Dasher, a Royal Navy patrol vessel, off the coast of Cyprus, Lieutenant Commander Mark Hill named Mr Melville as Major Martin, describing him as "a man who most certainly was". Mr Melville's daughter, Isobel Mackay, later told The Scotsman newspaper: "I feel very honoured if my father saved 30,000 Allied lives."
However, Professor Denis Smyth, a historian at Toronto University, whose book Operation Mincemeat: Death, Deception and the Mediterranean D-Day is due to be published later this year, believes he has now finally laid to rest such "conspiracy theories".
During his research, he came across a "most secret" memo written by Commander Montagu, the significance of which appears to have been overlooked and which Professor Smyth says proves the body of Mr Michael, who was mentally ill and died after ingesting rat poison at the time the operation was being planned, was used. Mr Michael was first proposed as The Man Who Never Was by an amateur historian in 1996, but the evidence to support this failed to convince supporters of the Dasher theory.
Tellingly, the memo unearthed by Professor Smyth was written after the body had been buried in Spain and addressed fears among senior officers that it would be exhumed for a second post-mortem which would confirm 'Major Martin' was a fake.
In it, Commander Montagu reports a conversation he had with coroner Dr William Bentley Purchase: "Mincemeat [the body] took a minimal dose of a rat poison containing phosphorus. This dose was not sufficient to kill him outright and its only effect was so to impair the functioning of the liver that he died a little time afterwards.
"Apart from the smallness of the dose, the next point is that phosphorus is not one of the poisons readily traceable after long periods, such as arsenic, which invades the roots of the hair."
Professor Smyth said: "What they talk about is whether the traces of the rat poison this person had taken could show up. So the person buried in Spain died from taking rat poison, not drowning, and therefore it is Glyndwr Michael.
"People love a conspiracy and a group has emerged who argue that this body was entirely unsuitable because it would have been riddled with rat poison.
"I think I've demolished what they think is the case for the counter-argument, that this body wouldn't have passed muster in the post mortem. The post mortem verdict was precisely as the British had expected, it was deemed to be a victim of drowning."
Asked about the 2004 ceremony on HMS Dasher, Professor Smith said: "It is very embarrassing ... I think this seals it. I've also been able to establish, I think beyond any reasonable, any rational doubt, the identity of the corpse involved."
However John Steele, author of The Secrets of HMS Dasher, insisted Glyndwr Michael would not have passed muster as a Marine because he was an alcoholic – although Professor Smyth says there is no record of his illness – and said he remains convinced it was Melville.
"I've received a comprehensive report from a top dental expert regarding the teeth of Glyndwr Michael, what he would expect to find. There is no comparison whatsoever between the body of an alcoholic tramp and that of a Royal Marine," he said.
"I can tell you Montagu pinched a body. There's no way a brilliant barrister such as Montagu would take one slight risk that this operation would go haywire.
"Montagu was meticulous and would never have sent the body of a tramp.
"Bill Jewell, the commander of the submarine Seriph, said it was 'highly unlikely' the body of a tramp would have been used in this operation and he put it into the water with three of his officers."
He claims Montagu decided not only to fool the Germans but also his own commanders, whose "first reaction was this is macabre, this doesn't happen in England". "All the secrecy was imposed because the body used was from Dasher," Mr Steele said. "And we couldn't have the British public finding out that a body was stolen."
Mr Melville's daughter Mrs Mackay, 70, of Galashiels, in the Scottish Borders, said she agreed with Mr Steele. "The whole thing finished for me in Cyprus when the Dasher was honoured and the Navy asked me out there. That is it as far as it's concerned," she said.
SOURCE: ANI (1-2-10)
Holzer, a scholar on Lincoln and the political culture of the American Civil War Era, trashed the claim made by playwright and AIDS activist Larry Kramer, who alleged that George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Lewis and Clark and Lincoln were all interested in men.
"I had a private conversation with him [Kramer]," the New York Post quoted Holzer as saying.
"He admitted to me that he made the whole thing up. He said he made it up to raise consciousness," he added.
Holzer further explained: "That he is reviving this hoax is a little bizarre. For half his life, Lincoln shared his bed with other guys. It was the custom. People didn't have so many beds."
SOURCE: UPI (1-1-10)
Yakobson said told Friday's Haaretz evacuating settlers from the region is impractical, instead suggesting settlers remain where they currently are and simply exist as a Jewish minority in a new Palestinian state.
Israeli soldiers will simply withdraw to the new border to exist on territory where Israel has sovereignty, Yakobson added.
The historian said the plan to allow settlers to remain where they are would lead to a more rational border in the region since Israel has struggled to create a border that would leave a majority of settlers inside Israeli territory.
Yakobson said by not forcing settlers to evacuate or relocate, Israel would have to offer significantly less financial compensation since settlers are not compensated for a change in a territory's political status.