Monday, June 10, 2019
At its 100th anniversary meeting in Washington, DC, the Agricultural History Society conveyed upon Jim Giesen one of its highest honors. As a Fellow of the society, Giesen now is among a coterie of individuals who by by-law must comprise less that a small percentage of the society's membership. Giesen's award stemmed from his standing as an agricultural historian--his book, Boll Weevil Blues, and several essays have won a number of prestigious national history awards--and because of his commitment to the society.
For nearly a decade, Giesen served as executive secretary of the Agricultural History Society. The Mississippi State University Department of History sheltered the society's executive office and stood as its institutional home. As executive secretary, Giesen oversaw the day-to-day activities of the organization and helped shape policy. Among his endeavors was moving the organization to a more aggressive scholarly posture and to increase its visibility in the profession-at-large. Giesen contends that agriculture is fundamental to all forms of human activity. As a consequence, he argued that there are many more historians and social scientists engaging in the history of agriculture than those identifying themselves in that matter. Part of Giesen's approach was to try to show these people how there work fits squarely in agricultural history and how their avid participation in the Agricultural History Society can promote their intellectual and professional development.
Giesen's efforts have been extraordinary and the organization maintains the important place in does in the history profession in part through Giesen's and Mississippi State University's efforts.
The organization further recognized Giesen's passion for agricultural history and for teaching history generally by creating at its annual meeting the James C. Giesen Award for Exceptional Teaching in Agricultural History. Given yearly, the prize recognizes a leading teaching in the field and comes with a modest stipend.