Western Society for French History




WSFH Co-sponsored Panels at AHA 2018

The Western Society for French History is now an American Historical Association affiliated society. On a practical level, this means that we co-sponsor panel and roundtable sessions at the annual meeting. Informed by our revised mission, we have sponsored the following sessions at this year’s AHA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, January 4-7, 2018:

Session 47: Beyond Haiti: Race and the Limits of Revolutionary Freedom in France’s Global Empire, 1789-1815 (Thursday, January 4, 3:30-5:00 p.m.)

Session 204: Webs of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in the French Empire (Saturday, January 6, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.)

Session 208: Thinking Race and Race Thinking about the “Francophone” Black Atlantic (Saturday, January 6, 1:30-3:00 p.m.)

Session 272: Teaching Race as an Integral Part of European History: A Roundtable (Sunday, January 7, 9:00-10:30 a.m.)

If you attend this year’s AHA Annual Meeting, please consider attending these sessions.


Statement on Proposed Reforms to French Archival Conservation Policies

The Governing Council of the WSFH has joined with several scholarly organizations to send a statement (see below) to the French Ministry of Culture regarding the news a few days ago that the Ministry of Culture is considering a policy to reduce current and future holdings of the French national and departmental archives. (see Le Monde of 14 November 2017): 

As historians of France and the Francophone world, we join our French colleagues in expressing alarm at the proposal, revealed in Le Monde on 14 November 2017, to revise the policies governing the conservation of French government archives. We are especially concerned by the concept of “archives essentielles,” advanced as the criterion for eliminating present and future archival holdings, and by the idea that digitization be substituted for the conservation of physical documents. We recognize that there are practical considerations of space and cost that go into any conservation decisions. Not everything can be preserved. But as researchers who make extensive use of the national and departmental archives overseen by the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, we are puzzled by the sudden shortage of space so soon after the opening of the new Archives nationales site at Pierrefitte, designed specifically to expand the storage capacity of the Archives nationales now and in the future. Digitization is not a magic bullet solution to problems of space and cost, either. Initial processing and electronic storage entail considerable expense, and technological obsolescence makes digitized materials highly vulnerable to degradation and rapid inaccessibility. These risks make digitization an unacceptable alternative to physical preservation.

As representatives of the international scholarly community of historians of France, we see a real danger that undermining the guiding archival fundamental principles of transparency and accessibility will marginalize the practice of French history and endanger its leading position within the discipline of history worldwide. Because we agree that archives and the access they provide to the past are “essentielles pour les générations futures” of both the French Republic and the international research community, we urge the Ministry of Culture to consult fully with citizens, archivists, and historians before taking any steps that might result in the destruction or elimination of irreplaceable archival materials. 


Executive Committee, French Colonial Historical Society
Executive Committee, Society for French Historical Studies
Governing Council, Western Society for French History
Editorial board, H-France
Trustees, Society for the Study of French History
Executive Committee, George Rudé Society
Executive Committee, Australian Society for French Studies

A petition, "Les archives ne sont pas des stocks à réduire! Elles sont la mémoire de la nation" can be found here.  



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