The idea for an interdisciplinary nineteenth-century studies association, later to develop into the national Nineteenth Century Studies Association (NCSA) dates to 1979, when Sara Putzell of Georgia Tech and Linda Zatlin of Morehouse College began discussions. With additional assistance from Annibel Jenkins of Georgia Tech, Bob Detweiler of Emory University, and an NEH grant, Georgia Tech hosted the first annual conference on May 10, 1980, with Ward Hellstrom of the University of Kentucky as the keynote speaker. The second meeting in Atlanta at Emory University again attracted an NEH grant which helped us to have as principal speakers author Morse Peckham and George Levine (Rutgers University), Avrom Fleishman (Johns Hopkins University), Nina Auerbach (University of Pennsylvania), and Coral Lansbury (Camden College). The 1981 conference introduced the idea of thematic conferences, selecting heroes and heroism as the general topic around which papers, sessions, and discussions were oriented. William Scheuerle invited the Southeastern Nineteenth Century Studies Association (SENCSA) to Tampa in 1982 to debate, through scholarly papers and discussion, the issue of dichotomies (from Rossetti to Darwin), the relationships of art and science, and other ideas stimulated by such concepts as C. P. Snow's "Two Cultures." Annually, now for two decades, nineteenth century scholars have gathered in the spring to present papers and discuss themes ranging from children to Utopianism, from color to propriety, from the ordinary to spectacles, and from the body to visions, dreams, and nightmares.
During the years when the society was a southeastern regional organization, annual meetings were held in various cities throughout the South including Atlanta, Tampa, Miami, Birmingham, Charleston, Lexington (VA and KY), and other sites. In the mid-1980s discussions began which resulted in the publication in 1987 of the first issue of the society's scholarly journal, Nineteenth Century Studies, edited for nine years by Suzanne (Edwards) Ozment of The Citadel in Charleston. In 1993 Jadviga M. da Costa Nunes began her series of art exhibition reviews in the journal. Patricia O'Hara of Franklin and Marshall served ably as journal editor for Vols 10-14, introducing during her tenure a review section on electronic sources for 19th century studies. In 2000 David Hanson of Southeastern Louisiana University was selected Editor.
In the mid 1990s discussions began regarding the expansion of SENSCA from a regional to a national society, and the name change to NCSA was formally adopted in 1996. Subsequent conferences in the Mid-Atlantic region [including Baltimore (1998), Philadelphia (1999), and the Washington, DC area (2000)], have continued to attract national and international scholars. Members' disciplines include English and American literature, history (including art history and architectural history), music, philosophy, political science, foreign languages and literatures, and other fields. At these annual meetings, and through its scholarly journal, NCSA scholars share interdisciplinary research on selected topics of 19th century studies.