For almost three-quarters of a century, the Anglo-American Conference of Historians, held annually at the Institute of Historical Research in London, has been the setting for both up-to-date gossip and serious historical business.
As the discipline of history becomes increasingly specialised and experts on one century struggle to keep up with what is being written on others, the case for broad-ranging conferences becomes stronger.
The aim is to take subjects where important and innovative work is being done by historians, which also have contemporary resonance. Hence this year's subject: race and ethnicity. It is odd that an Anglo-American Conference has never tackled it before, for the questions it raises resonate powerfully in the histories of both countries. Articles based on selected conference papers follow in this supplement.
Given the subject's sensitive nature, some of the answers found by the 300 or so delegates attending the conference will be controversial. But history without controversy is dead history, and the Anglo-American Conference exists to remind us that history is very much alive.
David Cannadine is director of the Institute of Historical Research.