Statement on Proposed Reforms to French Archival Conservation Policies

November 23, 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

Announcing A New Officer of the Organization:
Secretary/Web Coordinator

19 June 2017

The Society for French Historical Studies created a new officer of the organization, the position of Secretary/Web Coordinator.  The Secretary/Web Coordinator serves a three-year renewable term and sit on the SFHS Executive Committee.  The primary responsibility of this officer is to take charge of the Society’s social media, including the official webpage, Facebook page, and Twitter account.  In addition, he or she takes minutes at the Executive Council’s meeting during the annual conferences.  Following retirement from the position, this officer remains a member of the Council for two years.

A New Chapter in Society History:
The Institut Français d’Amérique Becomes Part of the SFHS

27 March 2017

The Society for French Historical Studies is pleased to announce the signing of an agreement that will, in effect, fold the venerable Institut Français d’Amérique into the SFHS.  Founded in December 1926 as the Institut Français de Washington, under the leadership of Thomas H. Healy, Louis T. Rouleau, and James Brown Scott, who became its first president, the IFA was dedicated to promoting the study of French civilization, history, literature, and art in the United States, and preserving the history of French missionaries, educators, explorers, settlers, scholars, and artists in North America.  The Institut established several awards to encourage the work of scholars in these areas: the Gilbert Chinard Historical Prize, awarded annually to the best American book on the history of French-American relations (on the recommendation of a committee charged by the SFHS); the Harmon Chadbourn Rorison Prize, the Edouard Morot-Sir Fellowship in French Literature; and the Gilbert Chinard research fellowships, awarded annually to doctoral candidates and untenured junior professors who need funds to underwrite research in France on French culture and history.  In pursuit of these goals, the IFW (now the IFA) has benefited from many donations and gifts.  A bequest of $50,000 from the Chicago industrialist Henry C. Morris in 1972 was of particular importance to the continuation of the Institute’s endeavors.

The agreement signed with the Society for French Historical Studies will allow the IFA to continue its good work under the auspices of the SFHS.  The essence of this new relationship will see the monies of the Institute transferred to a fund under the control of the Society, and to which the Society will add further monies.  The IFA fund thereby constituted will be disbursed for two purposes.  First, it will continue to contribute one half the award for the annual Gilbert Chinard Book Prize, the criteria for which will remain unchanged. Second, the new IFA fund will provide support advanced graduate students and early-career, untenured faculty working on French history and culture, who need to do research in France, though the provision of two research fellowships annually.  Responsibility for selecting the recipients will fall to the Society’s Research and Travel Award Committee.  Furthermore, these fellowships will, on an alternating basis, be named, in the one case, the Gilbert Chinard Fellowship or the Harmon Chadbourn Rorison Fellowship; and in the other, the Edouard Morot-Sir Fellowship or the Catherine Maley Fellowship. In the not-too-distant future, the SFHS website will include a brief biographical note about each of these individuals, along with announcements about the prizes and, subsequently, the names and affiliations of the winners.  The website will also contain a brief summary of the history and achievements of the IFA.

Read more about the Institut Français D’Amérique Fund Research Fellowships.