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Department of History records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-04-110

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of the Department of History range in date from 1877 to 1991. Most of the records are those kept by departmental chairmen John Holladay Latané (1913-1930), Kent Roberts Greenfield (1930-1943), Sidney Painter (acting chairman 1943-1945, chairman 1945-1960), Frederic C. Lane (1960-1961), Charles A. Barker (1961-1966), Alfred D. Chandler (1966-1970), Jack P. Greene (1970- 1973), Orest Ranum (1973-1976, 1982-1985), Vernon L. Lidtke (1976-1979), Mack Walker (1979-1982), and A.J.R Russell-Wood (1985-1991). Other faculty members are represented to a lesser extent, including John W. Baldwin, Charles A. Beard, Louis P. Galambos, Hans Gatzke, Waldo Heinrichs, W. Stull Holt, Franklin W. Knight, Owen Lattimore, J.G.A. Pocock, Wilfred Prest, F. Wilson Smith and C. Vann Woodward.

While the records are not complete, they do document many aspects of the department's activities over a long period of time. Generally, the materials pertain to academic affairs and the scholarly pursuits of the faculty, as well as the more mundane aspects of managing a department and working in the larger context of the university. Often, the records also reflect events occurring in the world outside the university, such as the Depression and the Second World War. The record group is subdivided as follows:

Subgroup 1: History Department, 1877-1991
Series 1: Seminars, Clubs & Lectures, 1877-1987
Series 2: Academic Programs, 1879-1987
Subseries 1: Subject Files, 1879-1987
Subseries 2: Course Records, 1982-1984
Series 3: Faculty, 1928-1990
Series 4: Departmental Administration, 1883-1991
Series 5: Funding, 1927-1985
Series 6: Extra-Departmental, 1887-1987
Series 7: Visiting Fellows and Faculty, 1969-1990
Series 8: Timothy Smith, 1965-1990
Series 9: Confidential Student Files 1894-1990
Series 10: Websites, 2015 - Ongoing
Subgroup 2: Institute of Southern History, 1966-1973

Within each subdivision (except subgroup 1, series 1), the files are arranged alphabetically.


  • Creation: 1877-1991
  • Creation: 2015 - Ongoing


Conditions Governing Access

Administrative records in subgroup 1 (series 4, subseries 1 and 2) are restricted for twenty-five years from their date of creation. Education records in subgroup 1 (series 2, subseries 1 and 2, and series 7, subseries 1 and 2) and subgroup 2, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as well as employment records in subgroup 1 (series 3), are also restricted.


When the Johns Hopkins University opened in the autumn of 1876, the History staff consisted of Austin Scott, Associate, and Herbert Baxter Adams, Fellow. Although it was not required of fellows, Adams did teach, and the instruction provided by these two men was supplemented by visiting lecturers, including William F. Allen, Thomas M. Cooley, Jeremiah L. Diman, and Hermann von Holst. Gilman invited these eminent guest lecturers not only to fill out the curriculum but also to attract them to the Hopkins faculty, without success. In 1877, he was equally unsuccessful in securing Henry Adams, who declined appointment as a full-time resident professor.

In the meantime, however, Scott and Herbert Adams were initiating those institutions which were to become the foundation for historical study at Hopkins: the Seminary of History and Politics and the Historical and Political Science Association. In 1878, Adams was appointed Associate in History and taught everything from Medieval History to English Constitutional History to Political Economy, covering as much ground as possible, since Scott's appointment was not full-time, the issue that prompted Scott to resign in 1882. Scott's departure left Adams with his own department, including newly-appointed Assistants, J. Franklin Jameson and Richard T. Ely, and Fellow, E.R.L. Gould. During that first year, Adams undertook the publication of Studies in Historical and Political Science and successfully encouraged the gift of the Bluntschli Library. With a larger staff in History, Adams was more at liberty to develop and direct studies in his field of interest, American institutional history.

The zeal with which Adams attacked the administration of the department during this first year typifies the conduct of his professional life. He was instrumental in founding the American Historical Association in 1884, becoming its first secretary. Likewise at Hopkins he made his mark not only as a proponent of the new "scientific history" but also as an administrator eager to secure a place for his department in the University. Adams ensured that all undergraduates were required to take history courses. Moreover, the department added five to its faculty in the 1880s and 1890s. Adams's ambition for his department is also evident in the number of history doctorates from 1882 until his death in 1901. During his tenure, fifteen percent of all the University's doctorates were in history, a figure unmatched in subsequent years. Three-quarters of the Ph.D. holders went on to teach in colleges and universities, and a third of these academicians also became deans or presidents.

Adams's broad conception of historical study encompassed not only economics and political science but also sociology; social reform work was the topic of the Social Science Conference initiated in 1893. In 1896, W.W. Willoughby became Associate in Political Science and Jacob H. Hollander, Associate in Political Economy, and, during the following academic year, branch seminaries developed around the original Seminary of History and Politics. Herbert Baxter Adams died in 1901, and the inevitable division of the department into three occurred, with Vincent assuming the chairmanship of the History Department.

During this period, the department ceased to grow, producing far fewer doctorates than the Adams department. There were only two faculty members to do most of the teaching, James C. Ballagh in American and Vincent in European history, reflected by the split of the seminary in two. English history was covered only incidentally until 1907 when the department secured Charles M. Andrews, but he stayed only three years. In 1913, Ballagh also left Hopkins, and John H. Latané replaced him, assuming the chairmanship as well. Latané complained of the inadequacies of the department in his 1915 report to the president, but the war came, delaying any improvements that might have been made. In 1918, Latané became chairman of the committee in charge of the War Issues course, lectured to students on the political issues involved in the war, and taught courses in American history and diplomacy to overcrowded classrooms. Vincent gave a course on naval history for the Students' Army Training Corps and belonged to a group furnishing information for the U.S. Peace Commission. The dwindling number of graduate students caused the seminary to meet only irregularly. Not surprisingly, it was during this period that the first women enrolled in the history graduate programs, taking their doctorates in 1921.

After the war, the number of doctorates granted steadily increased, and the faculty began to grow by the end of the decade. Vincent retired in 1925, and Latané moved to the newly-created Walter Hines Page School of International Relations in 1930. Their replacements were Frederic C. Lane (European history) in 1928, Kent Roberts Greenfield (modern European history and Chairman) and William Stull Holt (American history) in 1930, and Sidney Painter (medieval history) in 1931.

Greenfield immediately began effecting substantial change in the teaching of history at Hopkins. He managed the problem of poorly-prepared graduate students by dividing the seminaries in American and in European history in two, with an elementary section for students needing training in historical method. Another innovation in the seminaries was dispensing with the presentation of papers in favor of having them available for reading in advance of class. The policy of administering final written examinations to Ph.D. candidates was replaced with comprehensive examinations for graduate students to take whenever they felt prepared, which served to diagnose problem areas early enough for the student to remedy them. Under Greenfield, the Department also reduced the number of hours graduate students spent in formal lecture courses and concentrated basic training in the methods seminars. Broad upper level undergraduate courses were introduced to meet the needs of graduate students lacking training in a particular period or topic. There was a growing tendency for graduate students to meet in small groups with a faculty member to develop common interests and receive advanced training. In the area of undergraduate studies, the Department initiated the two-year survey of western civilization.

The thirties brought not only academic and administrative change but also, of course, economic constraints. The number of doctorates fell again. Yet the faculty of four continued important historical projects. In 1932, Holt unearthed the Scharf Collection of manuscripts and public records, and a few years later he prepared the letters of Herbert Baxter Adams for publication. In 1935-1936, the Harrisse Collection of sources for the study of the French Revolution was augmented. The same year, the department began the practice of inviting a distinguished historian to spend a week at Hopkins. Charles Beard held the position first, and Carl Becker followed. The first economic relief came in 1937-1938 in the form of two funds, one which Herbert Friedenwald donated for the research travel of graduate students and the other provided by Vincent for the purchase of documents needed for research. In September 1939, Vincent died leaving his large estate to the University for the Department's benefit. The bequest was partially used to establish the Vincent Fellowships in European History.

The Second World War had its first effects on the Department in the late 1930s, when two displaced European scholars, Friedrich Engel-Janosi and Helene Wieruszowski, came to Hopkins as research associates. Beginning in 1942, an accelerated undergraduate program, consisting of three semesters (beginning June, October and February), made exceptional teaching demands on the faculty. In 1943, the department began preparing a new set of history courses to fit the Army Specialized Training Program, and, in 1944, faculty from Political Science and Political Economy joined the History faculty to help teach "American History and Institutions." Professor Greenfield enlisted as Historical Officer to Army Ground Forces, and the seminar ceased to meet because of lack of graduate students.

With the end of the war came rapidly increasing enrollment of both graduate and undergraduate students, which rendered the staff inadequate. Sidney Painter replaced Chairman Greenfield. Charles Barker took up the position in American history, and the Vincent bequest made it possible to appoint C. Vann Woodward in Southern history. Four more appointments were made between 1946 and 1949. The period from the end of the war through the 1980s represented a time of sustained growth in all respects for the department. The faculty grew in numbers, from seven in the fifties, to eleven in the sixties, to over twenty in the seventies and eighties. The number of doctorates conferred each year has risen as well. In addition, new programs were developed. In 1949, work in the History of Science was initiated, and an independent department in that field was established in 1960. In 1964, the Center for Recent American History was created, one of its most important projects being to edit the papers of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1966, the Institute of Southern History was established to study the history, politics, culture and educational systems of the South. Beginning in the early 1970s, a program of Atlantic History and Culture was offered, initially in conjunction with the Department of Anthropology; a number of other departments have since become involved. The department has continued to increase in numbers and to branch out into new fields of historical study.


46.48 Cubic Feet (30 record center cartons, 17 letter size document boxes, 2 letter half-size document boxes, 4 flat boxes (15.5 x 12 x 3 inches), 1 oversize box (19 x 13 x 6 inches))

1 Website(s)

Language of Materials



Most of the records were transferred to the Archives by the Department of History. The Shaw Lectures files were found among the records of the Walter Hines Page School of International Relations (accession number 77.1), where they had travelled with John H. Latané when he became involved in establishing the Page School. It was decided to restore the records to the Department of History record group because the majority of the documents were produced when the Shaw Lectures were given under the auspices of the History Department. The Minutes of the Seminary of History and Politics and the scrapbook of examinations (1880-1905) were transferred to the Archives by the Special Collections Department of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

Accession Number

77.1, 79.110, 80.1, 80.39, 81.44, 83.24, 84.49, 87.40, 87.56, 88.38, 89.12, 89.40, 91.4, 92.3, 92.11, 92.14, 92.26, 92.47, 93.18, 94.1, 94.27, 98.13

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Julia B. Morgan, Sean DiGiovanna, Brian Harrington, Jennifer D'Urso, Crawford Keenan, Charlene Mendoza, Jonathan Meagher, Kim E. Bettcher, and Nancy Enneking.

Department of History records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA