Heard on the Hill

Capitol Hill History Buffs, Unite!

Historians on the Hill brings together staffers with history degrees

Historians on the Hill’s June briefing was on trade policy and featured, from left to right, Dane Kennedy, Susan Aaronson, and Marc Levinson. (Courtesy Bruce Guthrie)

Congressional staffers who have history degrees get together to, well, talk history.

And that leads them right back to the present. The National History Center launched Historians on the Hill to pinpoint current policy debates that could use a little context.

After hearing from a core group of history-minded staffers, the center offers briefings on issues of the moment.

As President Donald Trump hit allies with steel and aluminum tariffs in June, for example, the center ran a session on trade.

“Our topics jump everywhere from immigration to education to drug epidemics,” associate director Amanda Perry said.

[Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Hill History Buff? Take Roll Call’s Quiz]

Her predecessor at the center, an offshoot of the nonprofit American Historical Association, decided to reach out to staffer-historians in 2016. The aim was to tap into a shared love of scholarship rather than any one subject matter.

“Unlike many other organizations that do congressional briefings, our topic areas are very wide, very broad so it’s more difficult to develop the deep connections with a certain community of staffers,” Perry said.

With a mailing list of around 40 staffers, the group is looking to grow.

“I think most staffers, particularly people that studied history either in college or graduate school that go on to work on the Hill, understand the value that history can have for the work that they do,” she said.

The center also publishes a regular newsletter featuring historical perspectives on current events.

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