As Eric Evans, Honorary Vice-President of the Social History Society, writes, some recent news will mean a big change for the SHS.
Linda Persson, the Society’s Administrative Secretary, has informed the Committee that she intends to retire with effect from the end of August. To say that her retirement was received with regret would be a huge understatement. For many, Linda was the Social History Society. She ran the full gamut of administrative skills on the Society’s behalf: from answering routine telephone or e-mail enquiries on conference themes and locations; keeping its membership details up to date; gently but insistently reminding those who had not amended their Standing Orders; responding to media enquiries to identify an expert in this or that area of expertise and on to briefing newly elected officers on current initiatives and ongoing policies. These, as they say, and much, much more.
Members who sought Linda’s advice invariably found her well-informed and willing to help. She has been the first port of call to hundreds of present Society members and her inter-personal relations and understanding of the Society’s work will have been a factor in recruiting and retaining an enthusiastic membership. That the Society is in such good health is due in no small measure to Linda’s conscientiousness, expertise and personality. She has worn her knowledge and understanding lightly. Above all, she has been an invariably a calm presence, bringing experience and knowledge to bear across the full range of Society activities. The role of Administrative Secretary requires much ‘nudging’, suggesting and plain, honest chasing-up. Linda has known both exactly how much pressure to apply, and also when to apply it without giving offence.
Linda’s experience of Society matters has developed over a long period. She has been in post since the Autumn of 1986, having transferred from a secretarial role in the History Department at Lancaster University to do so. When she retires, she will have been in post continuously for more than thirty years. It is no exaggeration to say that the post has grown with Linda. Long-standing members of the Society will remember its Newsletter with its title in ‘bold’ (some considered it ‘lurid’) orange. It was the publication of a Society still finding its way. It was useful in the information it gave, especially about the next SHS Conference, or in summarizing the key points of papers delivered at the last one. Its range, however, was narrow. The Editors aimed to widen the Newsletter’s scope by including in it reviews of books which suggested new developments and methodologies in social and cultural history. The Newsletter was transmuted into a larger, more ambitious, Bulletin in 1996. The journal Cultural and Social History, which first appeared in 2004, was the logical progression. It was launched to fill an important conceptual gap and to make more explicit and integrative the links and connections between social and cultural history. It has helped the Society to confirm its status over the last decade or so as one of the leading, internationally reputed journals in its field. Linda’s remit during this latest period was not formally extended to cover the new journal but general queries not infrequently strayed into its rationale and editorial policy. Linda mastered her brief and answered them with characteristic efficiency.
All colleagues who know Linda will want to wish her a happy and rewarding retirement. Those who have worked with her will be aware of the Society’s indebtedness to her loyalty and multi-faceted ability. She has been an important element in the Society’s success. Thank you, Linda, from us all.
In response to the news, Pat Thane, Honorary President of the Social History Society, said:
It’s almost impossible to imagine the Social History Society without Linda. I’ve been a member since it was founded in 1976 – hard to believe it was so long ago, but great that it has carried on and remained successful, indeed increasingly successful, all that time. The success owes a massive amount to Linda, a reliable, friendly fixture through changing chairs, committees and members, an invaluable store of institutional memory through time, an indispensable source of advice during my six years as chair, I’m sure preventing many mistakes. But we all have to retire sometime and I can only wish Linda a happy, relaxed retirement and thank her wholeheartedly for all she has done for the Society.