Learn More about US Constitutional History at the American Historical Association Annual Conference

By Seth Denbo, Director of Scholarly Communications and Digital Initiatives, American Historical Association

The 128th annual meeting of the American Historical Association is being held in Washington this year from 2-5 January. The conference features a wide array of historical workshops, panel discussions, scholarly papers and social sessions to appeal to historians of all types.

There are a number of panels specifically related to constitutional history, both in the United States and internationally. There are also papers scattered throughout the event that will be of interest to anyone studying the US constitution, constitutional theory, and historical debate on these issues.

Friday morning features a fascinating panel that includes three papers on the history of originalism in the post-war era. The panel entitled “Originalism and Its Discontents: The Legal and Political History of PostwarConservative Constitutional Theory” includes papers on pro-life constitutionalism, conservative views of the Progressive Era, and labor and originalism.

While the focus of this panel is on the US Constitution there are also papers that look at constitutionalism in broader contexts. Constitutionalism at the state level is examined in “As Mankind Becomes More Liberal”: Catholicism and Religious Freedom in Early U.S. State Constitutions” and a paper on “The Constitution in the Classroom” looks at student protest and legal change.

Internationally there are papers on constitutional history in Africa, India and Mexico among others. “The Boasted Privileges of the Liberian” looks at trans-atlantic constitutionalism and American identities and how these were manifested during riots in the city of Monrovia in mid-nineteenth-century Liberia. As part of a plenary session on global civil wars during the 1860s, constitutionalism in Mexico during the 1860s is looked at in “Between Reform, an “Ungodly Constitution,” and National Defense: Mexico’s Civil War, 1858–67”, and the wonderfully titled “Cows and Constitutionalism" uses petitions as a source for understanding the history of the Indian Republic.

If your interests are more to do with the use of digitized resources and digital methodologies, there are a wide range of panels on digital history throughout the conference. This piece in Perspectives on History provides a broad overview of these: [http://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/november-2013/new-challenges-new-opportunities-digital-history-at-aha-2014].

The annual meeting this year will also finish up with THATCamp on Sunday January 5th. THATCamp stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp.” It is an unconference: an open meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot. Come along and organize and participate in discussions on any aspect of the application of technology to the study of history. We welcome graduate students, scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers and programmers, K-12 teachers, administrators, managers, and funders as well as people from the non-profit sector, the for-profit sector, and interested amateurs.

It is not necessary to attend the annual meeting to go to THATCamp, and registration is separate, so please go to the THATCampAHA 2014 website [link:http://aha2014.thatcamp.org/] where you can also learn more about what THATCamp is, suggest sessions, and learn about your fellow campers.

For details on speakers on all of these panels and papers, as well as others on the history of politics, political movements and government you can browse and search the entire program and register online at http://www.historians.org/annual-meeting . We hope to see you there.

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