News from the American Friends Board Meeting – November 2014

The AFIHR Board met at the NACBS in Minneapolis and decided to support the following

IHR projects:

1. The IHR’s Library has launched a Library Conservation Fund and the AFIHR are

Board of AFIHR-2014

Board of AFIHR-2014

pleased to be joining the Mercers’ Company and the British Friends of the IHR at the outset of this important initiative.

2. The 2015 Anglo-American Conference is on Fashion and in support of this, the AFIHR will fund the digitizing of the four London department store catalogues from 1916/17, which will form a digital exhibit at the conference in July 2015.

3. The board voted to support bursaries for 2-3 Master’s degree students at the IHR and are delighted that they will be named after the AFIHR (students from outside Britain will be eligible to apply).

President’s Letter to Membership, September 2014

On October 1, Dr Lawrence Goldman, the editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, begins his term of service as IHR director, and we are looking forward to meeting and hearing from him at the NACBS conference in Minneapolis in November. Much was accomplished during Miles Taylor’s six years of splendid work, and the IHR redesign/refurbishment has been finished after two years of temporary accommodation in the Senate House.

The move back to the “new” IHR in the north block of the Senate House is now complete. For a succinct description of the reconfigured library, see Katie Wilcox’s September 12 post on the IHR Blog at

Since we have all experienced the daunting task of moving all our things to a new house or office and remember it with horror, it is astonishing to me to see how the IHR staff has accomplished this while keeping all of the many programs and initiatives thriving and moving ahead. The list of seminars at the IHR shows no diminution, and the program of conferences is ambitious and impressive. An exciting and useful feature of the IHR’s website is its ever expanding list of conferences not only in London and Britain but around Europe as well. Go to whenever you are planning to “cross the pond” to see whether there is an event you need to attend.

Previous grants of funds from the AFIHR have supported library acquisitions, digitization projects to make primary sources available online, and travel by North American graduate students to participate in the History Lab conference held each summer at the IHR.

I write as always to urge you to continue your membership in and support of the IHR. As many will recall, in 2013 we managed (with vital assistance from Miles Taylor and the IHR development team of Michelle Waterman and Mira Chotaliya) to make it much easier to make payments for IHR membership and discounted subscriptions to British History Online and the Bibliography of British and Irish History. For full information about our new system, please visit our website ( which you can also get to via the IHR website (

Please join (or rejoin) the AFIHR and enjoy the benefits of being a part of this community of scholars. And thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Sears McGee, President, AFIHR


The Institute of Historical Research gets royal reopening

Princess Anne reopens the IHR

Princess Anne reopens the IHR

The Institute of Historical Research was officially reopened by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, on Tuesday 14 October. The Princess Royal, who is Chancellor of the University of London, was given a tour of the Institute’s new facilities including the library, seminar rooms and the conference suite.

More than 80 people assembled in the remodelled IHR Common Room for the rededication, where the Chancellor met students and junior research fellows as well as members of staff and representatives of the Friends of the IHR. After unveiling a plaque, she gave a short speech about the Institute’s ongoing work.

The refurbishment, made possible by a University of London investment of more than £10 million, took place over a three-year period, during which time the Institute was temporarily housed in Senate House. Charitable foundations, individual benefactors and the many historians who use the IHR’s library and attend its research seminars, made further contributions.

The Institute has been the focus of a rich historical culture in London since its foundation in 1921 and now the many improvements to its premises, equipment and facilities can only enhance its national and international roles as a centre for historical studies.‘The Institute of Historical Research has always had a special place in the affections of academic historians in Britain and around the world. There is nothing quite like it anywhere else’, explained Professor Lawrence Goldman, IHR Director.

‘Historians have come here for decades to work in our library with its unique resources, attend the many seminars which convene in the Institute, and meet and chat in the IHR’s common room. We can now accommodate them in purpose-built facilities for research and exchange. We look forward to an exciting new phase in the IHR’s history.’

President’s Letter to Membership, November 2013

I write to report on the decisions made by the AFIHR Board of Directors at our annual meeting held in Portland earlier this month and to encourage you to renew your membership in the AFIHR if you have not already done so.  For renewing members, I also urge that you pass this message on to anyone you know (colleagues, graduate students, friends) who might be interested in joining us and reaping the advantages of doing so.

The IHR is a community of scholars which offers many benefits to its members. These include (in part):

  • A rich array of over sixty seminars covering a dazzling list of fields from the Crusades and the Latin East to Digital History (
  • The superb open-shelf IHR library in the heart of London which contains a large and increasing collection of primary sources and finding aids.
  • An active program of online reviews (Reviews in History) and growing quantity of digitized primary sources and finding aids (BHO – British History Online).
  • A common room  which will be available autumn 2014 when the refurbishment is completed- a pleasant place for gathering in the afternoon or evening after attending a seminar or using the library.
  • Scholarships and programs specifically for graduate students (including the annual History Lab conference in the summer).
  • Reduced price individual subscriptions to the Bibliography of British History and to special content feature of British History Online. These are particularly helpful to independent scholars and to those whose institutions cannot afford these subscriptions.

Besides access to the IHR’s facilities and activities mentioned above, AFIHR membership affords a tax-deductible way for Americans to help support, sustain and expand the IHR’s work.

John Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses

John Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses

In Portland early this month, the AFIHR Board of Directors, a group of historians who volunteer their time and energy, allocated approximately $10,000 for such purposes as the digitization of Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigiensis, next summer’s Anglo-American Conference, and book acquisitions. The digitization of Foster’s Alumni Oxoniensis has been completed on the basis of AFIHR grants over the past several years.

A contribution of $45 ($30 for graduate students) or more annually to the American Friends of the IHR confers membership in the Institute.   AFIHR membership and any charitable contributions you may choose to make are tax-deductible for U.S. citizens.  Our new website ( makes payment easy via major credit cards and Paypal.

Whether you are a long time user of the IHR services and facilities (both in London and online), are just planning a visit, or have graduate students whose work you are directing, please consider joining or renewing soon.

Sincerely yours,

Sears McGee, President, AFIHR

Join the IHR for an Event in NYC

The American Friends are invited to an evening with the IHR in New York on 4th November 2013. If you happen to be in New York, please come and join us to find out what the IHR has been up to and its future plans in the US.

Please feel free to extend this invitation to your colleagues who might be interested in attending. If you would like to join or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
NYC Event Nov 2013

President’s Report to the Membership 2013

As I come to the end of a pleasant summer of research and writing in London, I write to report on the success of the Anglo-American Conference on food history held in July. It was very well attended, and I heard a number of really interesting papers (including plenary lectures by Ken Alba and Steven Shapin). The IHR library and the seminars continue to function fully and well in the temporary digs in south block of the Senate House while an extensive refurbishment continues across the breezeway to the north.

IHR Refurbishment July 2013

As you may have noticed, this message (which I have in the past sent in June or July) is later than usual. The reason is that we are making some changes that will, I believe, be helpful and welcome.  I will, as in the past, write to you again at the end of the year to report on the AFIHR board meeting which will take place this year in Portland in November.

Changes to how you pay for British History Online and  the Bibliography of British and Irish History

Many of our members take advantage of our provision of discounted subscriptions to British History Online and/or to the Bibliography of British and Irish History. These are calendar year subscriptions, so it now makes sense to move the annual appeal asking members to continue their AFIHR membership to the autumn of the year. Please note that this new arrangement will require separate handling of membership donations and subscription fees for digital resources.  Those of you who depend on these databases should contact the development office ( to make payment.  

New website and changes to membership administration

Membership services are now being provided by the development staff at the IHR, which consists of two very talented and capable people, Michelle Waterman and Mira Chotaliya. Day-to-day management of the website is also now located in the IHR. One big advantage of the new configuration is that we will at last be able to handle payments via credit cards and Pay-Pal in addition to checks. For some time now, AFIHR board meetings have discussed the need to have such options available and been frustrated by their high cost for a small organization like ours. Now this problem is solved by our “piggybacking” on the IHR itself. I am very grateful to the IHR’s director, Professor Miles Taylor, for making these changes possible. You will see the result on the membership form on the redesigned AFIHR website Fortunately, our longtime webmaster Newton Key has agreed to continue to consult on any questions that may arise concerning the site. All decisions about the allocations of AFIHR funds will of course continue to be made, as required by the IRS, by the AFIHR board.

As you know, the IHR is now in the midst of a major fundraising campaign to coincide with extensive redesign that is now under way. The money will help pay both for the refurbishment and the IHR’s programs.  The changes will transform it, as Miles has said, from an institution in a library to an institution with a library. For more information on all this and much else, see recent issues of the IHR’s magazine, Past and Future. All of us who treasure the wonderful open-access resources of the library should take note, as Miles mentions in his introduction to the March issue, that these are hard times for getting public monies for libraries. Back when the IHR library was being established in the 1920s and 30s, it was “private donations, bequests, and gifts from overseas governments” that played a critical role. I suspect that “overseas governments” are no longer much involved, so support from organizations such ours are more important than ever. And our example is being followed. The Canadian Friends of the IHR have been organized in recent years and held reception at the NACBS meeting in Montreal last autumn to celebrate their launch.

I know I speak for our board members and the many scholars (especially including graduate students) who benefit from the funds we provide when I ask you to renew your tax-deductible membership in the AFIHR so we can continue to support the work of the IHR from our side of the pond. A contribution of $45 ($30 for graduate students) or more annually to the American Friends of the IHR confers membership in the Institute and facilitates. If you are able to make any additional contribution, it will be greatly appreciated.

All officers and board members of the AFIHR serve without compensation. Board members receive no compensation or travel support, so administrative costs are minimal, consisting of mailing expenses, occasional technical services, and accounting fees. Therefore nearly every dollar contributed is forwarded to the Institute in order to help pay for some aspect of its work. I will be happy to try to answer any questions or make use of any suggestions you may have.  Please use the email provided.

Sincerely yours,

Sears McGee, President, AFIHR

President’s Report to the Membership 2012

I regret that this newsletter is now a month later than usual, but I wanted to be able to report to you from London about how the IHR is coping with its temporary location in the south block of the Senate House while the refurbishment proceeds just to the north. Last week I spent an afternoon tracking down information for my current book project, and I’m pleased to report that the library continues to work well. The British Library is, of course, indispensable, but the availability of basic printed sources, reference materials, periodicals and monographs on the open shelves at the IHR makes one’s work much more efficient for so many purposes. I attended a packed seminar of the Tudor-Stuart seminar last week, so that side of the operation appears to be thriving as well.

The plans for the “new” IHR that is scheduled to open in 2013 are exciting and can be seen on the IHR Relocation Blog. You will be pleased to know that the tearoom will be back in its customary space alongside new meeting and teaching rooms, more space for academic and research staff, and many improvements for the library.

If you have not yet had a look at The History SPOT for its podcasts of many of the seminars and lectures at the IHR, you have a treat awaiting you.

I am delighted to announce that, thanks to Professor Miles Taylor, the IHR’s director, and his staff, we are now able to offer a new benefit that will be helpful for many members of the AFIHR. It was a worrying development when the Royal Historical Society’s Bibliography of British and Irish History became a proprietary service under the aegis of Brepols Publishing not long ago. Many college and university libraries have been unable to afford institutional subscriptions to BBIH since then, and annual subscriptions for individuals are now pegged at $171.

Beginning January 1, 2013, however, AFIHR members can have annual subscriptions to BBIH for $55, a savings of approximately two-thirds. If you wish to take advantage of this opportunity, please note that subscriptions are for the calendar year that begins January 1 and that the IHR needs to provide Brepols a list of AFIHR members who have opted to buy the subscription by mid-November. If you know of anyone who might find this extraordinary resource useful, please pass along this newsletter (or direct them to our website to join the AFIHR.

Whether or not you wish to take advantage of reduced-cost subscription to the special content of British History Online and/or the BBIH, please join us or renew your membership in order to help support the increasingly varied and important work that the IHR does. In addition to enhancing the collections and improvement of the library, your tax-deductible contribution supports bursaries to help North American graduate students attend the annual History Lab Conference which is held at the IHR, the process of digitizing essential reference materials to extend the usefulness of British History Online, and much else.

Please renew your membership in the AFIHR so we can continue to support the work of the IHR from this side of the Atlantic. More information is available elsewhere on this website. A contribution of $45 or more annually to the American Friends of the IHR ($30 for graduate students) confers membership in the Institute and facilitates.

All officers and board members of the AFIHR serve without compensation. Administrative costs are minimal, consisting of mailing expenses, occasional technical services, and accounting fees. Therefore nearly every dollar contributed is forwarded to the Institute in order to help pay for some aspect of its work. Checks are to be sent to Professor Paul Hammer (above), so that he can keep our membership list up to date.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely yours,

Sears McGee

President’s 2012 Report to the Membership

At the NACBS conference in Denver (Nov. 19-21), Jason Kelly and I organized and co-chaired an informational semi-plenary session designed to introduce scholars (especially younger ones) to the services on offer from a group of research organizations. It was part of the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the IHR and intended in part to encourage attendees to consider joining the AFIHR. Our panel members were from the IHR (Miles Taylor), the Huntington Library (Steve Hindle), the Folger Library (Kathleen Lynch), the Walpole Library (Maggie Powell), the Beinecke Library (Kathryn James), the W.A. Clark Library at UCLA (Rebecca Fenning), and the Ransom Center at UT-Austin (Rich Oram). After brief remarks from them, a lively Q & A session followed with questions and comments from a large audience.

At our board meeting, Professor Miles Taylor, the IHR director, encouraged us to inform AFIHR members that the IHR’s magazine, Past and Future, is available on-line and provides us all an excellent means of keeping up with what is happening there. He also discussed the IHR’s temporary move to the South Block of the Senate House while the old quarters in the north block are being refurbished. We were pleased to hear the seminar program continues to thrive and that a number of the seminars are being made available as podcasts and in some cases webcasts that we can have direct access to in our offices, homes, or classrooms. You may register for notices of new podcasts at History SPOT for free.

As always, we also decided how to allocate the funds that you, our members, contributed, and the result was grants for library purchases ($3500), digitization projects ($3000), bursaries to support participation by graduate students from North America in the summer History Lab conference at the IHR ($2000), and this year’s Anglo-American Conference ($1000).

We thanked board member Nancy Ellenberger for many years of service as our membership secretary. This important task will now be performed by a new board member, Paul Hammer (University of Colorado).

I am also pleased to announce that we have negotiated a discount of approximately two thirds for AFIHR on a subscription to the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH). Formerly available free from the Royal Historical Society, this important and ever growing database is currently provided by Brepolis to subscribing libraries or individual subscribers (currently ₤110). I expect to be able to give full details in my June message to you all. Please note that the individual subscriptions will be for the calendar year beginning January and that the IHR will be supplying its list of subscribers to Brepolis in November. I am most grateful to Miles Taylor and his colleagues at the IHR for helping us create this valuable option.  Information about it will also be posted on the AFIHR website and described in more detail in my spring newsletter.

Please renew your membership in the AFIHR so we can continue to support the work of the IHR from this side of the Atlantic. More information is available elsewhere on this website, and we remain grateful to Newton Key for his excellent work as our webmaster. A contribution of $45 or more annually to the American Friends of the IHR ($30 for graduate students) confers membership in the Institute.

All officers and board members of the AFIHR serve without compensation. Administrative costs are minimal, consisting of mailing expenses, occasional technical services, and accounting fees. Therefore nearly every dollar contributed is forwarded to the Institute in order to help pay for some aspect of its work.

Thank you for your past support.

Sincerely yours,

Sears McGee

President’s 2011 Report to the Membership

Next month, the Institute of Historical Research has its 90th birthday. Celebrations began earlier this year with a series of birthday tie-in events featuring notable personalities and events of 1921 (including Asa Briggs, Marie Stopes and the first birth control clinic, the first PhDs in history). Still to come in December is a conference on Princes Consort in History (marking the 90th birthday of the Duke of Edinburgh and the 150th anniversary of the death of Prince Albert).

The IHR is also looking to the future. The Institute is undergoing an extensive refurbishment which requires a temporary relocation in 2011-2013 while the space occupied since 1948 receives a facelift. The result will be new meeting and teaching rooms, a modernized library, and more space for academic and research staff – an IHR fit for the 21st century.

Since 1989, the American Friends of the IHR have played a valuable role in supporting the IHR library and postgraduate training.  The AFIHR board wants to continue this work and also to help lay the foundations of financial sustainability by increasing the institute’s endowment. Professor Miles Taylor, the IHR’s director, has written that “the American Friends already do so much for the Institute.  Now we are asking you to do a little more: by making our birthday year an opportunity to introduce a new American Friend. For every new Friend introduced by 31st December 2011, we will offer you a discount… on your subscription to British History Online.” Many of us have friends, colleagues, and students who would enjoy the benefits of membership, and we can now save money on our subscriptions by bringing new members into the fold. [The offer to members of AFIHR have expanded since this was written.]

I also take pleasure in announcing know that I have organized a panel on research libraries that hold sources for British Studies at  the upcoming NACBS meeting in Denver (Nov 18-20), with the help of Jason Kelly. We will hear brief remarks by representatives from the following institutions – IHR (Miles Taylor), Huntington (Steve Hindle), Folger (Kathleen Lynch), Walpole (Maggie Powell), Beinecke (Kathryn James), Clark (Rebecca Fenning), and the Ransom Center (Rich Oram) – followed by questions from the audience. The goal is to enable graduate students and younger faculty members who are planning research trips to meet and talk to our speakers. Those of us who are not young and have already worked in some of these collections might also benefit from updating our knowledge of their collections and procedures. The session will take place on the Friday afternoon (Nov 18).   The IHR is planning a reception which will follow it and allow the conversations to continue. If you are planning to be in Denver, please join us (and maybe bring your new AFIHR members along as well).

I also want to take this opportunity to remind you that AFIHR members can obtain a discounted access to the BHO’s “premium content” feature BHO which now provides keyword access to over 800 volumes of valuable materials (including the Commons and Lords Journals, Victoria County History, Statutes of the Realm, Treasury Books and Papers 1557-1754, Calendars and Close Rolls and the Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, and many others). This is a substantial discount on the rate charged to individual subscribers to BHO. The most recent addition to the BHO material is the first half (A-K) of Foster’s Alumni Oxoniensis, and we expect that the rest will be added soon….

Sincerely yours,

Sears McGee