I just returned last night from the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in San Jose, where I was once again reminded of why I no longer make a habit of attending the big historical conferences. This one was a disaster by just about anyone’s reckoning, attracting several hundred fewer participants than expected. This was the result of a last-minute change of venue. It was originally scheduled for San Francisco, but the hotel where it was to be held was in the midst of a labor dispute. The OAH sent a survey to its membership, asking if they’d be willing to cross a picket line, and--surprise, surprise--the members decided overwhelmingly to express solidarity with the horny-handed sons of toil. So there was a scramble to book a venue in San Jose, and we ended up sharing the local convention center with a much larger group of Bible enthusiasts. This fact elicited a great deal in the way of snide comments from the assembled historians. In any event, the decision to move from San Francisco to San Jose probably cost the organization about twenty percent of its attendees. One longtime member told me that the OAH lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process, leading to speculation that this might be the end for the venerable organization.
As for the conference itself, there’s very little to report. Suffice it to say that at one point I was imprudent enough to let on to a young woman that I had voted for George W. Bush. "And yet you write books," she responded.