NEH Funding for Overseas Summer Programs

To the Members of the Medieval Academy,

This morning, the letter copied below was sent on behalf of the Officers and Council of the Medieval Academy to William Craig Rice (Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Education Programs) and to several other NEH staffers.

We will keep you informed as this situation develops.

Dear Mr. Rice,

We are joining with other scholars to express our surprise and dismay that the NEH has determined to discontinue supporting Summer Institutes and Seminars unless they are held within the United States or its territories.

We understand that the NEH has come under increasing budgetary pressure in recent years; however, we feel it continues to be crucial that the NEH support the best possible programming, and the best possible professional support for our Humanities scholars. Excluding Institutes on the basis of their geographical location seems at odds with this.

A foreign-based NEH Summer Institute or Seminar provides many scholars with a rare opportunity to work abroad, to experience the places they study, to consult original documentation and artifacts, and to meet with foreign scholars and lay the groundwork for future collaborations. All of this enriches both the scholarship of these academics and the scholarly culture of our country. Moreover, our participating scholars act as scholarly and cultural ambassadors for the U.S., at a time when our country’s position as a leader in setting global cultural and intellectual trends is increasingly less secure. Cultural isolationism is a not an effective strategy either for our country or for the NEH.

As the leadership of The Medieval Academy of America, the largest learned society in the world devoted to the study of the Middle Ages, we can confirm that these NEH Summer Institutes have served as the springboard for many extremely productive collaborative scholarly projects and institutional collaborations with foreign counterparts which otherwise would not have taken place. The Medieval Academy has co-sponsored such international NEH Summer Institutes in the past, most recently a Dante Institute in Florence in 2009 under the leadership of Paul Szarmach and Christopher Kleinhenz. The Dante Institute was a great success. Access to original resources studied in context inspired all of the participants in multiple ways and resulted in significant and original scholarship.

In sum, this decision represents a considerable loss to the NEH, and to U.S. scholarship. We are disappointed that the decision was taken apparently without consultation or the opportunity for discussion or debate. We sincerely hope that the NEH will reconsider, and at the least place a two or three-year moratorium on this policy until such a time as it can be carefully considered, and with the input of those whom it will affect most.


William Chester Jordan, President of the Medieval Academy of America, Dayton-Stockton Professor of History and Chairman of the History Department, Princeton University

Lisa Fagin Davis, Executive Director, Medieval Academy of America

On behalf of the Officers and Council of the Medieval Academy of America

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