At the Annual General Meeting on Saturday 12 May 2018, a long-planned transition took place. Our Hon. Secretary, Barbara Burns (Glasgow), took over as Hon. Chairman from Malcolm Cook (Exeter), who had led the Association for nearly twenty years, and who had presided over our Centenary Dinner the previous night. At the same meeting, Alison Fell (Leeds) took office as our new Hon. Secretary, while Alison Finch (Cambridge) continued as Hon. Treasurer. Other roles were reshuffled, and Katherine Astbury (Warwick) joined us as a new Trustee. The new committee roster is here.
Only 26 of the 12,358 scholars associated with MHRA since its foundation are called Alison, and only 3 of those 26 have surnames beginning with F, so it's at rather long odds that two of our Hon. Officers are both Alison Fs. (MHRA's only other Alison F. was the celebrated Professor of French and former Bletchley Park codebreaker Alison Fairlie, who passed away in 1993, but she too served on our committees in her time.)
What is really notable, though, is not that two of the Officers are called Alison, but that all three of them are women, for the first time in the Association's history. In an age when women continue to be under-represented in senior academic leadership roles, we're pleased to be an exception. Similarly, the MHRA's Trustees have long been about equally balanced in gender: the numbers go up and down, but currently 11 women to 13 men.
While the formal business was done on the Saturday, when Malcolm chaired one final meeting of the Trustees (roughly his 80th), the torch was really handed on at the Lansdowne Club, in London, the night before, following a remarkable Presidential Address by Dame Marina Warner. More about that address later; but for now, here are Barbara and Malcolm, in a colloquy of Hon. Chairs.