A few weeks ago, I went to the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, this year in Washington D.C.
Every year in January, around 4,500 to 5,000 historians all come together to
make talk history. There are panels on the history of every epoch, geographical area or approach. Maybe a bit more on US-History, but that was to be expected. Luckily for me there were also a lot of interesting panels on Early Modern European History – unfortunately, often parallel to other interesting panels on teaching history, the digital humanities, challenges for doctoral researchers and early career scholars, or just random cool stuff I had no idea about. So, for every time slot the question was anew: something from my own research field, some teaching, some methods, something for my upcoming challenge of being on the job market, or getting to know something completely new?
Besides all the panels, there are other things to do as well: the most anxious one seems to be the job interviews which are conducted during the meeting. Hopefully, next year I will be among all the candidates, trying not to bite their nails while waiting for one of these important meetings. More relaxed was a walk over the publisher’s fair: for me it was mostly about seeing old favorites and discovering new publishers. There were also quite some tours to Washington’s interesting places planned, but, however, I was too late to reserve a spot. I’ll pay closer attention to them next time as well.
In many ways, the American meeting was a lot like the German Historikertag, which meets every two years – except for the job interviews. Also very different was the experience of doing such a big conference in a hotel, or better yet, in three hotels instead of a university. Some days, I didn’t even have to leave my hotel. The dominance of Tweed on the other hand was very similar 😉
I did tremendously enjoy the annual meeting – even with it having unusual cold weather. Learning about the way, history is done on the other side of the Atlantic – research interests, questions, methods, teaching, institutions – was inspiring, and reinforced my decision to try to find an academic job there. Talking to a lot of very welcoming and interesting people reinforced my decision to stick to academic history – every conference I’ve been to was just so filled with interesting people doing amazing stuff! However, hearing all the discussions about the job market, also painted a very clear picture of the difficult way ahead of me.