American Historical Association

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AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION (AHA), founded in 1884 to establish high professional standards for training and research in the newly distinct academic discipline of history. At the 1884 meeting of the American Social Science Association (ASSA), "professors, teachers, specialists, and others interested in the advancement of history" voted to found the American Historical Association, independent from the ASSA. Herbert Baxter Adams, an associate professor in history at Johns Hopkins University, became the first secretary of the AHA, and Andrew Dickson White, a historian and president of Cornell University, served as the first president.

In 1889, an act of Congress incorporated the association "for the promotion of historical studies, the collection and preservation of historical manuscripts and for kindred purposes in the interest of American history and of history in America." The act stipulated that the association should submit reports on "historical matters" to the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, who should then "transmit to Congress such reports as he or she saw fit."

In 1895 two AHA members, George Burton Adams and John Franklin Jameson, began publishing a journal, the American Historical Review (AHR), which the association soon began to subsidize, eventually assuming formal control in 1915. Since then, the AHA has expanded its publishing program to include a monthly newsletter, Perspectives, and a wide variety of publications, including directories, bibliographies, resource guides, and professional and teaching pamphlets.

The association works both to publish documentary records and to preserve historical records, often working with the government. The National Archives, for instance, were established in large part through the efforts of the AHA. The teaching of history has also been a concern of the association from its start. When the secondary school curriculum was being created at the end of the nineteenth century, the AHA ensured history's important place in that curriculum and continued to work to improve history education through committees and commissions. At the graduate level, the AHA has developed teaching programs and has been instrumental in cultivating high standards for scholarship and training.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the AHA was the largest and oldest membership-based historical association in the United States, with over 15,000 individual members and 3,000 institutional members. Governed by a twelve-member elected council, the AHA is composed of three divisions: the Professional Division, which collects and disseminates information about employment and professional issues for all historians; the Re-search Division, which promotes historical scholarship, encourages the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts, works to ensure equal access to government records and information, and fosters the dissemination of information about historical records and research; and the Teaching Division, which collects and disseminates information about the training of teachers and about instructional techniques and materials and encourages excellence in the teaching of history in schools, colleges, and universities.


Higham, John. History: Professional Scholarship in America. 2d ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.

Novick, Peter. That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Ross, Dorothy. The Origins of American Social Science. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.


See alsoNational Archives .

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American Historical Association