AUSTIN, Texas—University of Texas at Austin historian Dr. W. Roger Louis, whose award-winning teaching style and carefully chronicled books have illuminated the history of the British Empire and the origins of both World Wars for nearly 30 years, has been elected president of the American Historical Association.
Louis will be the first UT faculty member elected president of the 15,000-member organization since Walter Prescott Webb in 1958.
The AHA, which is based in Washington, D.C., was founded in 1894 and is the oldest professional association of American historians. The office of president is usually regarded as the highest honor in the historical profession. Louis will serve as president-elect in the year 2000, president in 2001 and past president in 2002.
Louis has been at UT Austin since 1970 and holds the Kerr Chair in English History and Culture. He is a member of the University’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers and also is director of the faculty seminar on British Studies. He has written or edited two dozen books, including the prize-winning Imperialism at Bay (1976) and The British Empire in the Middle East (1984). He also is the editor-in-chief of the five-volume Oxford History of the British Empire.
Louis, 63, recently received the honor of Commander of the British Empire, one of the most prestigious awards granted by the Queen of England and one rarely given to an American.
“Roger is a historian’s historian,” said Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson, UT executive vice president and provost. “He has a scrupulous sense of historical detail, yet he encourages far reaching and basic discussion. I say, ïBravo!’ Roger’s election as president of the AHA is yet another marker of the high esteem he has long brought to us all. I count it a distinct privilege to serve on the same faculty with him.”
Dr. William S. Livingston, senior vice president and co-founder with Louis of British Studies, said Louis is “unquestionably one of the most valuable members of our faculty and one of the world’s leading and most widely acknowledged students of British imperial history.
“Always thoughtful and thorough, Roger also is a splendid teacher and a colleague to be cherished. His election to the presidency of the American Historical Association is an entirely appropriate distinction, following as it does on his selection as editor of the Oxford History of the British Empire, and his designation last month as Commander of the Order of the British Empire. All of us at the University can take great pride in his accomplishments.”
Dr. Richard Lariviere agreed that Louis’ contributions to the University are invaluable. “Roger Louis is a UT treasure,” he said. The world’s historians know that he is a great scholar, but they probably don’t know that he is a prize-winning teacher whose reputation among students is one of selfless generosity and patience.”
Dr. Brian Levack, chairman of the history department, said other historians at UT Austin are delighted that their colleague has been recognized in “this special way. Roger’s election not only recognizes his stellar achievements as a scholar and teacher, but also brings great honor to our department and to the University.”
Louis received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1959 and a master’s degree from Harvard University. He has a D. Phil from Oxford University, where he was on a Marshall Scholarship. Before coming to UT Austin, Louis was a faculty member at Yale University.
The UT historian is the recipient of numerous honors, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1993, he was elected a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, the highest academic honor in the humanities and social sciences in Britain. He also is a fellow of St. Antony’s College at Oxford, and at UT he has directed five NEH summer seminars for college teachers.
“The AHA is flourishing as never before, but historians in significant numbers suffer from unemployment, temporary jobs, perhaps even post-tenure review,” said Louis. “We must lobby tenaciously to ensure fair employment, improve salaries and defend academic freedom.
The AHA remains an organization remote to much of its membership. Its leadership needs to inspire all historians by demonstrating commitment to a professional association that has played an important part in American public life for more than 100 years.”