The National History Center of the American Historical Association provides a venue in the nation's capital for all who care about the human past to make history an essential part of public conversations about current events and the shared futures of the United States and the wider world.

Policy and History in York, PA: College Students Brief Local Leaders

Drawing upon the model of the Congressional Briefing series and some of the examples from the History and Policy Education Program, Corey M. Brooks, Associate Professor of History at York College of Pennsylvania, developed a new course,  “Policy and History in York” for the Spring 2019 semester. His full reflections can be found here.

On a May night in downtown York, Pennsylvania, two blocks from city hall, I sat quietly as seven of my York College undergraduates expounded to politicians and community leaders on the histories of poverty in our community and of policy responses that had in years past attempted (and often failed) to meaningfully alleviate this deep-rooted problem.   Speaking for 90 minutes on subtopics they had selected themselves and researched over the course of a semester, these students together unfolded several key facets of the history of poverty policy in York.   The audience responded with rapt attention, as student research informed and energized attendees, including the city’s mayor, the city council president, the local constituent services director for the area’s U. S. Representative, and the CEO of York County’s official Community Action Agency.   After concluding their prepared remarks, students handled difficult, thought-provoking audience questions with comfort and skill.  Each student stood a little taller later that night as they mingled with local policymakers and college faculty.  In the process, they celebrated their hard work—work that might tangibly contribute to a community in which they now felt increasingly invested.

Welcome to York sign (Public domain)

The group had traveled quite a distance from our first class meeting in January.  At the outset, the students had little idea where they would direct their energies and widely varying experiences with history research, policy analysis, and local community engagement.  Guiding these students from that starting point to the final briefing event was perhaps the most demanding and most fulfilling teaching experience of my nine years at York College of Pennsylvania.  In this new “Policy and History in York” course, modeled on the National History Center’s congressional briefings, I challenged students to conduct the research necessary to become experts on the local history of policies that concern our community.  They then would have to work as a team to build and present a shared briefing for local decision makers.

I conceived of this course for two main reasons. The first was in response to the all too ubiquitous questioning, including (especially) in higher education itself, of the relevance of historical research.  Here was a course in which students would show peers, faculty, and the broader community how historical research could be brought to bear to contextualize current challenges.

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Upcoming Congressional Briefing

Topic: The Geopolitics of Middle East Oil: Historical Perspectives on the Current Crisis

Date: November 4, 2019

Time: 9:00 am – 10:00 am EST

Location: 2043 Rayburn Office Building

The recent attacks on oil tankers in the Persian gulf and Saudi oil refineries serve as a stark reminder of the global economy’s dependence on petroleum from this politically unstable region. This briefing, which brings together several leading historians of the subject, will explain how the Middle East oil industry assumed such importance in international affairs and American foreign policy. All are invited and please send RSVPs to Rachel Wheatley at rwheatley@historians.org.

Moderator: Dr. David Painter, Georgetown University

Speakers: Dr. Anand Toprani, US Naval War College and Dr. Nathan Citino, Rice University

Pioneering Journalist Cokie Roberts Dies

Cokie Roberts, the famed journalist, historian, and National History Center board member, has died.  Much admired for her balanced political commentary and engaged historical studies of America’s ‘founding women,’ her passing is a loss for us all.

Ariel Zambelich/NPR

For more information on Cokie’s life and publications: https://www.npr.org/2019/09/17/761050916/cokie-roberts-pioneering-female-journalist-who-helped-shape-npr-dies-at-75?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20190917&utm_campaign=breakingnews&utm_term=nprnews&utm_id=1138849

History of health care

At our first summer Congressional Briefing at the end of June, Beatrix Hoffman (Northern Illinois University) and Nancy Tomes (Stony Brook University) traced the history of health care and insurance in the U.S. in light of present debates. Moderated by Alan Kraut (American University), the briefing reviewed the ways that the federal government has considered and intervened in the provision of health care and insurance since the early 20th century; how these systems have developed with the help of federal funding; and what congressional legislators can do in the present and near future about the broader health care system in the US.

Historians discussed the history of health care policy since World War I. Topics included the roots of the modern health care system, the medical field’s transformation into a business, and disparities in insurance coverage.

A video recording of the briefing can be found here, in C-SPAN’s video library.

A briefing summary, with bios of the panelists, is available here.