High-Stakes History: The Many Conversations of the Historian, January 21-22, 2016

The Columbia University Department of History invites you to attend High-Stakes History: The Many Conversations of the Historian, to take place at Columbia in the Maison Française (Buell Hall, East Gallery) on January 21 and 22, 2016. You may register in advance for the conference here. There is no charge to attend.

Historians occupy vital roles in a dazzling array of projects that range from finding policy alternatives to the War on Drugs to seeking new means of depicting the experiences and contributions of Africans enslaved in South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations. The third History in Action conference highlights the presence of historical thinking across a huge range of undertakings, celebrates the contributions that historians make to these projects, and reflects on the specific ways in which history participates in and shapes thinking and action beyond its disciplinary boundaries.

Panels will concentrate on the role of historical research and skills in such varied fields as policy making, scientific research, entertainment, educating the public via primary sources, and popular history. In addition to spotlighting specific projects that bring history into many places beyond the academy, our goal is to bring together academics and professionals who can help us to reconsider what it means to be a historian in a time when people often have multiple and continually changing careers. We hope that all of our participants will share their experiences and perspectives in the ensuing conversations.

The History in Action program, one of four AHA-Mellon Career Diversity for Historians pilot programs, hosted two previous conferences, in 2013 and 2015. The first conference offered a forum for discussing the significance of changing patterns of employment and opportunity within academia, and its implications for the historian’s place in public life; the second focused on the question of where history is most needed outside academia and how a PhD in History equips students for engaging their skills in public life. This year, the conference will highlight the many conversations that historical thinking enriches by its presence. You can learn more about History in Action and its aims here.

A full schedule for the conference can be found below. We very much hope that you will be able to join us in January for this exciting event.




You can find directions to Columbia’s campus here, and a map of the campus here (the conference location is labeled “Buell” on the map).

The Aloft Harlem hotel is offering a special rate for conference attendees. After you have registered for the conference, please contact Sarah Petrak (srp2166@columbia.edu) for information on how to get the conference rate.




Thursday, January 21st, 2016


9:00 AM

Open Breakfast/Coffee


9:30-11:30 AM

The Many Careers of the Historian

Staff from local publishers, institutes, libraries, non-profits, and companies will hold informational interviews and conversations. Business attire is encouraged.

Please see a full list of career session participants here.

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Lunch Roundtable: AHA-Mellon Career Diversity Initiative Pilot Programs


1:00 PM – 1:15 PM

Opening Remarks by Professor Alondra Nelson, Dean of Social Science, Columbia University


1:15 PM – 2:15 PM

Keynote Address


2:30 PM – 3:45 PM

Panel 1 – Primary Sources for Publics


4:00 PM – 5:15 PM

Panel 2 – History as Entertainment


5:30 PM – 6:45 PM

Panel 3 – Policy and Politics: Learning from History





Friday, January 22nd, 2016


9:00 AM



9:30 AM – 10:45 AM

AHA & MLA Roundtable Conversation: The High Stakes of the Humanities


11:00 AM – 12:15 AM

Panel 4 – History and Science



12:30 PM – 1:30 PM



1:45 PM – 3:00 PM

Panel 5 – Pop History


3:15 PM – 4:45 PM

Panel 6 – History in and of Communities


4:45  PM – 5:00 PM

Closing Remarks


5:00 PM

Closing Reception



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