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American Council Of Learned Societies

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					The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is a private, nonprofit federation
of sixty-six national scholarly organizations in the humanities and social sciences. The
object of the council, as set forth in its constitution, is the "advancement of humanistic
studies in all fields of learning and the maintenance and strengthening of relations
among the national societies devoted to such studies." The council funds humanities
scholarships, convenes meetings and conferences that identify and address issues of
concern to the academic humanities and its constituent learned societies, and
advocates on behalf of the academic humanities. Purpose ACLS is best known as a
funder of humanities research through fellowships and grants awarded to individuals
and, on occasion, to groups and institutions. The centerpiece of this work is the ACLS
Fellowship Program. ACLS Fellowships are designed to permit recipients to devote
six to nine months of research and writing in such fields as literatures and languages,
history, anthropology, political and social theory, philosophy, classics, religion, the
history of art, linguistics, musicology, and the study of diverse world civilizations and
cultures. The intensive peer-review process that results in the selection of these
fellows is an opportunity for distinguished scholars to reach broad consensus on
standards of quality in humanistic research. An endowment provides the funds that the
ACLS Fellowship Program awards to individual scholars, but the council also funds
scholarly research through regranting funds awarded to it by foundations, the U.S.
government, and foreign organizations. Some of these programs are focused on
particular fields, such as the Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship
in American Art that supports Ph.D. candidates working on the history of the visual
arts of the United States. With the support from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation,
the ACLS has begun a program of Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for
Recently Tenured Scholars, designed to allow a small number of younger scholars in
the humanities to undertake long-term, ambitious scholarly projects. The Charles A.
Ryskamp Fellowship Program, also supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,
provides sizeable fellowships to advanced assistant professors who have advanced
their fields and who have well-designed and carefully developed plans for new
research. The ACLS has long engaged in international studies by providing
opportunities for American scholars to advance scholarly projects on an international
basis and by developing contacts with overseas academic communities. The
development of area studies in this country owes much to the impetus provided by the
ACLS. In the 1920s the ACLS became one of the first American scholarly
organizations to promote studies of East Asia. The original concept of organizing
scholarly expertise around an area or cultural region grew out of the council's early
work in Oriental studies and language training, and its ability to bring a wide variety
of humanists and social scientists together in interdisciplinary work. ACLS made it
possible to launch area studies and sustain them over an extended period. After World
War II, when the practical need for such competence was evident, ACLS and the
Social Science Research Council joined to organize and develop African, Asian, Latin
American, Near and Middle Eastern, Slavic, and East and West European studies. For
more than forty years, the council has cooperated with the Social Science Research
Council in organizing research and area studies on global issues. The ACLS
Committee on East European Studies has expanded and consolidated scholarship on
that region; it publishes East European Politics and Societies, the only significant
peer-reviewed scholarly journal dedicated to that field. With funding from the
Carnegie Corporation of New York, ACLS has begun a program proving grants to
sustain individuals in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine who are doing exemplary work in
a time of crisis and contraction, so as to assure continued future leadership in the
humanities. Among the council's publication ventures, the most ambitious and
substantial is the American National Biography (ANB), which was published in print
in 1999 and in an online version in 2000. The ANB is, in print, a twenty-five volume
collection of approximately 18,000 biographies of significant individuals in American
history, written by more than 7,000 expert authors. It is a successor to the Dictionary
of American Biography, first published in 1928 and also sponsored by ACLS. Also
important is the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, with articles on significant
scientists from antiquity to modern times. A third major reference work, the
Dictionary of the Middle Ages, was completed in 1989. In addition to these reference
works, other publications of importance to scholarship sponsored by ACLS include
the ongoing publication of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin in a thirty volume
edition. The ACLS also published a critical and definitive edition of the Works of
William James in nineteen volumes and supports the ongoing preparation and
publication of the Correspondence of William James in twelve volumes. In 1999
ACLS, together with five of its constituent learned societies and ten university presses,
launched the History E-Book Project, which will publish, in electronic format, both
new and time-tested works of history. The ACLS, as the most broadly based
organization representing scholars as scholars rather than as specialists in particular
fields, is well-positioned to serve as advocate on behalf of the scholarly humanities in
public forums and policy arenas. The council's critical role in helping to establish (in
1964) and to reauthorize (in 1985) the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
is perhaps the most notable example of its exercise of this function. ACLS draws
together learned societies and affiliates for consideration of shared concerns,
particularly those related to maintaining and improving conditions for scholarship,
education, and communication among scholars in the humanities. Each member
society appoints a delegate, who serves as its representative. The delegates gather
each year at the ACLS annual meeting. The principal staff members of the constituent
societies comprise the conference of administrative officers, which meets in the fall
and again in the spring.
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