Michael Binder, Technical Advisor, Air Force Declassification Office

Proposal Type

Open for discussion/debate

  • Seeking Additional Presenters
  • Seeking Specific Expertise
  • Seeking General Feedback and Interest

Related Topics

  • Government Historians

While Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches have documented their activities over centuries,  compiling their voluminous history is permissive and could be halted at any time.  There is a smaller but still substantial block of history which is not at all elective.  This session will present several examples of mandatory historical recordation that government historians have no choice but to perform due to statute, executive order, or litigation.


This proposal is presented on behalf of the NCPH Government Historians Committee; chair of the session is open.

Many public historians may be unfamiliar with what can be called mandatory history.  To remedy this situation, we seek government historians, and history-oriented lawyers, who have worked under the force of law and are willing to speak about it.  Specific topics include the following:

– environmental litigation (asbestos, lead, etc.)

– water rights adjudication

– FOIA (including litigation) and Mandatory Declassification Review

– Congressional Inquiries

– FRUS compilation

– automatic declassification

– security reviews of pre-publication manuscripts

and other similar subjects.

If you have a direct offer of assistance, sensitive criticism, or wish to pass along someone’s contact information confidentially, please get in contact directly: Michael Binder, [email protected]

If you have general ideas or feedback to share, please feel free to use the comments feature below.

All feedback and offers of assistance should be submitted by July 2, 2017.


  1. Benjamin Filene says:

    This is a fascinating topic, one that I knew nothing about before reading this. I see how it could be useful–even a bonding experience?–for fellow government historians to share their experiences. As well, though, to reach those outside that immediate world, could you try to draw lessons from the realm of “non-elective” documentation that would apply to archivists and historians of all stripes. Do your experiences raise questions about what gets saved and what lost from the historical recrod more broadly? Does it/should it lead us to question the relative “completeness” of archives. How does the elective vs. non-elective divide have implications for historians’ interpretive work? I’m reaching well beyond my area of knowledge here, but suggesting that it would be great to build bridges to people new to this material. Hope this helps.

  2. Modupe Labode says:

    I think that this could be very interesting , given the attention that memos and tweets have received. You may think about reaching out to archivists/historians in presidential libraries, and/or historians working in state governments.

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