American Historical Association Denounces the War in
March 13, 2007
Contact: Alan Dawley 215-843-6754
In an unprecedented step, the nation’s oldest and
largest professional association of historians, the
American Historical Association (AHA), has ratified a
resolution condemning government violations of civil
liberties linked to the war in Iraq. The resolution
urges members “to do whatever they can to bring the
Iraq war to a speedy conclusion.” In electronic
balloting whose results were announced on March 12,
some three-quarters of those voting supported the
resolution, which was originally proposed by members
Historians Against the War (HAW), a national network
over two thousand scholars on more than four hundred
campuses. The resolution had gained earlier acceptance
from members attending the AHA’s annual meeting in
Atlanta on January 6, 2007, and from the AHA Council,
which decided to send the resolution out for
ratification because of its sensitive nature.
“The outcome indicates the deep disquiet scholars feel
about damage done to scholarly inquiry and democratic
processes by this misbegotten war,” said Alan Dawley,
Professor of History at The College of New Jersey and
former winner of the prestigious Bancroft Prize, who
was the initial mover of the resolution.
The American Historical Association was chartered by
Congress in 1889. Past Presidents include two United
States presidents who were also historians, Woodrow
Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. President John F.
Kennedy was also a member. According to current
members, there is no instance in its 118-year history
when the AHA has dissented from U.S. foreign policy.
Staughton Lynd, a prominent supporter of a defeated
1969 resolution opposing the Vietnam war, comments:
“Back then we asked historians not only to oppose the
Vietnam war but to protest harassment of the Black
Panthers and to call for freeing political prisoners.
This resolution focuses on government practices that
obstruct the practice of history. It asks the
Historical Association only to encourage its members,
as individuals, in finding ways to end the war in
In the weeks leading to the vote, many of the nation’s
leading historians, such as Eric Foner of Columbia
University and John Coatsworth of Harvard, both former
AHA Presidents endorsed the resolution.