2013 AGM minutes

Minutes of the 61st Annual General Meeting of the British Agricultural History society held at Askham Bryan College, York at 6pm on Tuesday 9th April 2013

The meeting began at 6.15pm
Present: There were 26 members of the Society present. In the absence of the Chair of the Executive Committee Prof Whittle, the Chair was taken by Prof Alun Howkins (President). Officers of the Society present were Dr N J Verdon (Secretary), Prof R W Hoyle (Editor, Agricultural History Review), and Dr H French (Book Review Editor). Apologies were received from Prof Whittle, Dr Hilary Crowe (Treasurer), Peter Riches, John Whyman, and Alan Hunter.
557 Minutes of the 60th meeting were approved as an accurate record of the meeting subject to minor amendment.
558 Matters arising from the minutes:
559 Elections of Officers of the Executive committee
The following were nominated and elected unopposed:
Treasurer: Dr Hilary Crowe
Secretary: Dr Nicola Verdon
Editor: Prof Richard Hoyle
Book Review Editor: Prof Henry French
The current President, Prof Alun Howkins, ends his 3-year terms of office at this AGM and will revert to being an ordinary member of the EC. One nomination has been received for President, from Prof Mark Overton (Exeter) to succeed him. He was elected unopposed.

560 Election of Ordinary members of the Executive committee
One member of the current EC has served their 4-year term and is eligible for re-election: Dr Paul Warde
One member of the current EC has served two terms and is not eligible for re-election: Dr Elizabeth Griffiths.
Dr Warde wishes to be re-elected to serve a second term. Therefore one seat is free on the EC. We have received a nomination from Dr Carl Griffin (University of Belfast), and he was elected unopposed.
Thanks were expressed to Dr Griffiths who leaves the EC at this AGM.

561 Report by Chairman of the Executive Committee
In the absence of the Chair of the EC, Prof Whittle, Prof Howkins spoke to this item. The next few years will be an uncertain one for academic societies like this one and we may need to start thinking about how the Society functions and what it offers: conferences, the website as a space for ideas/communication, the Review and other publications. All members of the Society were encouraged to communicate suggestions to the Chair and Secretary, which will be fed forward to the EC in September. One suggestion was to tap into the potential membership from History teachers in schools and local history societies. It was agreed that this idea will form part of future discussions about encouraging membership.
Susanna Wade Martins was thanked for her continuing work in editing Rural History Today. All members of the Society were encouraged to contribute to this popular and informative publication.
562 Report from the Treasurer
In the absence of the Treasurer a report, an overview of income and expenditure, and membership numbers were distributed to the AGM. Prof Howkins spoke to this item. The accounts have been audited. Membership is stable and there is a good number of student numbers under the reduced subscription rates. The higher costs of the Review last year were noted. The Society also made a substantial contribution towards the establishment of EuRHO (but this came in too late to appear on this set of the accounts). On the whole the Society remains financially healthy.
The Treasurer was asked to clarify the following items for the EC:

  1. The winter conference made a surplus of £317. Was this because some bills remained unpaid as the accounts were prepared or are there other reasons?
  2. The grant from the Austrian Ministry towards the publication costs of the Review: Where does this appear in the accounts?

One member pointed out that the Society is currently saving money by not paying an assistant treasurer, but as this most likely will become a cost again in the future could there be a way of not losing this sum from the accounts and projecting it as a future liability. The Society is likely to incur increasing costs covering other work (for example on the website) in the future also.
It was noted that public libraries and museums are no longer subscribing in the numbers they used to. University library numbers have fallen but we expect this to remain stable. University libraries tend to look at use rate (of online journals) rather than the cost of the journal per se. It was agreed that a new recruitment leaflet for a membership drive was desirable but as the future situation is unclear we may wait a couple of years before enacting this. The AGM were assured that individual members would not be expected to provide a financial cushion for the Society in the future through membership fees.
It was asked if the Charity Commission had recently enquired about the Society’s investment policy. This was not the case but it was agreed this should become an item on the EC every 3 years.
The accounts were formally approved.
The independent examiner Zoe Crumbie was reappointed.
363 Report from the Editors
Volume 60: The Editor reported that two parts were published, totally 350 pages. There were 13 articles including the 3 prize essay articles, and 36 reviews. There had been a good rate of article submissions over the year, up to 26 articles. These are increasingly international in content, which can make the refereeing and editing process more difficult. The Editor expressed thanks to the Book Review editor, Prof Henry French, and to Catherine Glover for copy editing. The referees for the Review were also thanked for their hard work and thoughtful reports, an essential contribution to the journal.
The Editor pointed out that all Humanities journals facing an uncertain future because of the Open Access agenda, that is work published by British academics should be produced gratis. International authors will not be affected. HEFCE is pursuing a model based upon science journal publishing, with 2 projected routes – the gold route (journals being paid to publish work immediately) and the green route (no fee attached and work published after some length of embargo). All work submitted to the next REF will have to be submitted on Open Access principles, including monographs. After consultation, History journal editors have put forward a range of objections to the HEFCE proposals. The consultation will report in the autumn. What Open Access will do to subscriptions and membership is unclear. The Society has agreed a statement giving our position on Open Access, which will be placed on the website shortly and we await developments.
The Review Editor and Book Reviews Editor were thanked by the Chair for all his hard work during the year.
364 Any other business
A member of the Society spoke about the past, present and future of the Review, reminding the AGM that the Society had been formed to bring together all those who were interested in agricultural/rural history. As the content of the Review, the principal form of contact with its members, had increased its non-British content substantially over the last decade, and its advisory board was mostly made up of professors from European institutions, it was suggested that members who had joined the Society because of their interest in British agricultural history may be being sidelined. Was the Society therefore meeting its initial aims?
Much discussion and comment followed. Some thought the international component of the Review was one of its great attractions; others pointed out that the Society had other publications, such as Rural History Today, which met the interests of non-academic members. The Editor pointed out that the Review has to serve both the individual membership (for the most part drawn from the British Isles) but as it was also an academic journal it needed to have an international reach to maintain institutional sales and to enhance its reputation in an international context. The EC took the collective decision that volume 59 would carry the five Eastern European essays only if it could be produced at no extra cost to the Society (these had been covered by the Austrian government and the Scouloudi Foundation).
This issue has bearing on the future path of the Society, as raised by the Chair earlier in the meeting, and all members of the Society were again encouraged to send their views and ideas to the Chair/Secretary.
Prof Howkins was thanked for all the work he has undertaken whilst President of the Society over the last 3 years.
565 Date of next meeting
Tuesday April 8th 2014, at Denman College, Oxfordshire