Throughout its history, ACLS has convened committees of scholars to provide leadership in the development and direction of research in the humanities. In the early decades, from the late 1920s-1940s, committees were established to encourage study in fields and regions that were not then represented in American scholarship and academe. Since that time, ACLS committees have considered intellectually challenging subjects not easily addressed within contemporary departmental and disciplinary boundaries.
Committee on the Dictionary of American Biography
Frederick Jackson Turner, delegate of the American Antiquarian Society, proposed that ACLS undertake the "preparation of an encyclopedia of American biography" at the first meeting of the Council on February 14, 1920; a committee was appointed the following year. Among those serving on the committee over the 70 years of work on the Dictionary of American Biography and its supplements were J. Franklin Jameson, Dumas Malone, Carl Van Doren, Alfred Chandler, Caryl P. Haskins, C. Vann Woodward, Arthur Schlesinger, and Joan Hoff Wilson.
Research in the Native American Languages
later Joint Committee on American Native Languages
Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, and A.L. Kroeber were among the members of this committee, which was founded in 1927 to “secure an adequate record of Indian Languages and dialects, and to take such other steps as seemed desirable and practicable for furthering the study of native American languages.”
Committee on the History of Religions
The Committee on the History of Religions was founded on the conviction that the study of the history of religious thought and practice was a subject that spanned several disciplines and required study and teaching on a broad scale. It assumed responsibility for the Lectures in the History of Religion series in 1936. Over a 50-year span, the committee included E.C. Colwell, Robert M. Bellah, Willard G. Oxtoby, Joseph M. Kitagawa, Diana L. Eck, and Annemarie Schimmel.
Committee on History of Ideas
The Committee on the History of Ideas, which included Richard McKeon and Arthur O. Lovejoy, created the Journal of the History of Ideas because, as Lovejoy wrote in the journal’s first issue, “The processes of the human mind, in the individual or group, which manifest themselves in history, do not run in the enclosed channels corresponding to the officially established divisions of university faculties.”