AOS Honorary Member David Ayalon Elected

American Historical Association

Honorary Foreign Member for 1997

FRIDAY, JANUARY 9, 8:30 P.M.
American Historical Association General Meeting
Sheraton, Metropolitan Ballroom
Presiding: Joseph C. Miller, University of Virginia

"Only 81 individuals have been selected for honorary foreign membership in the Association's 114-year history--a tradition begun by the participants at the AHA's second annual meeting in Saratoga, New York in 1885, who selected Leopold von Ranke as the first honorary foreign member.  Beginning in 1991, selection of this honor is made annually honoring a foreign scholar who has been distinguished in his or her field and who has 'notably aided the work of American historians.

"Tonight DAVID AYALON of Israel is added to the list of 23 living honorary foreign members representing eight countries.

"David Ayalon, professor emeritus of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is one of the few scholars who can be regarded as a founder of his field.  He was trained as a specialist in medieval Middle East history and quickly established an expertise in the fields of thirteenth-sixteenth century eastern Mediterranean history.  In particular, he began a lifelong study of the unusual Islamic institution of military slavery most often known by the name Mamluk.  Prior to the appearance of his pathbreaking articles on this institution in medieval Egypt and elsewhere in the Islamic world, it was widely regarded as a peculiar phenomenon of only marginal interest. Professor Ayalon set out, literally, to examine everything available, either in print or in manuscript.  He recognized quite early that no credible analysis could be attempted until a foundation of accurate definitions had been completed.  Every article or book which touches on any aspect of Mamluks refers to the scholarly contributions of David Ayalon.

"One measure of Dr. Ayalon's value to the profession is the frequency with which scholars in other countries seek him out, and find him helpful. Following his retirement in 1983 after a long and distinguished career at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he has remained vigorously engaged in his discipline and professional community.  He has frequently visited U.S. colleges and universities, generously sharing his time with faculty and students alike.  In supporting Professor Ayalon's nomination, colleagues state that he has 'created a field' and that '..his work is a foundation stone for my own, and I think most Middle East historians are equally indebted to him.'  And 'Professor Ayalon is the doyen of Israeli scholars of the Middle East.  Two generations of Israelis and many Americans have learned their craft from his teaching.

"The American Historical Association is honored to acknowledge Professor Ayalon's role in the international community of historians by selecting him as the Honorary Foreign Member for 1997."