THIS was the first time a Society conference had been hosted by the Huntington. The invitation was issued by Robert Ritchie, Research Director of the Huntington, and the event was organised jointly by Anthony Fletcher and John Tosh. Two days of discussion devoted to the history of English politeness was always going to seem somewhat out of place in the environment of southern California. In the event the choice of theme acquired unanticipated layers of meaning, since it began three days after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11. Its content now seemed even more at odds with the world around us, while the decision to proceed with the event became caught up in the `business as usual' outlook with which so many Americans responded to the tragedy. For a day or two it was not clear whether the conference could be held at all. A substantial proportion of the British contingent was temporarily stranded at the Grand Canyon, while three of the scheduled speakers – Michèle Cohen, Philip Carter and Penny Russell – were prevented from attending altogether by the disruption of air traffic. However, with the strong encouragement of Robert Ritchie, it was decided to proceed with the conference. The first session was preceded by a flag-pole ceremony at which conference participants and Huntington staff could pay their respects to the dead. The size of the audience was inevitably reduced. Some thirty people, mostly from the Los Angeles region, attended, in an atmosphere which was sombre but attentive. Several people made the point that, in these appalling circumstances, it was no bad thing to be reminded of the virtues of politeness, particularly their capacity to transcend their early elitist associations.