History of the WHA
The WHA is the foremost organization for the promotion of world history through the encouragement of teaching, research, and publication. It was founded in 1982 by a group of teachers and academics determined to address the needs and interests of what was then a newly emerging historical sub-discipline and teaching field.
The new world history emerged out of the shift in higher and secondary education away from a sole emphasis on national and regional histories toward broader cross-cultural, comparative, and global approaches. By the 1980s, instructors who had been asked to create new courses in this field, as well as scholars who had already begun laying its theoretical groundwork, came together in founding a new type of professional association, one that united the schools and the universities, teaching with research.
Since then, the WHA has grown four-fold, has garnered accolades for its award winning Journal of World History, and has played a seminal role in shaping the field in the U.S. and around the world. Important for American secondary education, WHA members have been instrumental in establishing standards for World History teaching at the national and state levels as well as designing the AP World History course. At present, although its membership is still predominantly North American, the WHA is represented in over 35 countries and has an affiliate relationship with world history societies in Europe and Australia.
Most important, the WHA brings together university professors, college and community college instructors, school teachers, graduate students, and independent scholars in a collegial camaraderie rarely found in more narrowly focused academic and professional societies. Still motivated by a larger sense of mission in preparing students and the public for an interdependent world, the WHA has been unique in bridging the gap between secondary and post-secondary educators.
The WHA supports and works to advance scholarship and teaching within a trans-national, trans-regional, and trans-cultural perspective. Through the researchers, teachers, students, independent scholars, and authors who are its members, the WHA fosters historical analysis undertaken not from the viewpoint of nation-states, discrete regions, or particular cultures, but from that of the human community. To this end, the WHA supports four different media for the dissemination of the most up-to-date scholarship and pedagogical advances in the field and sponsors annual public forums for the exchange and discussion of changing approaches to the study and teaching of world history at all levels. Moreover, as a founding member of the international Network of Global and World History Organizations (NOGWHISTO), which was admitted to full membership in the Comité International des Sciences Historiques (CISH) on 22 August 2010, it works with other associations across the globe to foster support for research and teaching in world history.
With an enlarged and further diversified membership, professional administration from its Headquarters, and funding adequate for its expanded role, the WHA will improve services for its members, expand outreach and professional development programs for secondary and college instruction in world history, stimulate research and publication on world history, and further internationalize its scholarly activities.
One of the WHA’s most important venues for promoting superior teaching and scholarship has been the annual conference, held over 3 ½ days, normally in late June. In recent years the conference has attracted 400-600 conferees and included over 100 panel and round table sessions, as well as several keynote addresses and often an accompanying workshop or institute for teachers. By tradition and because most of its members are from the USA and Canada, the WHA holds two consecutive annual conferences in North America and goes abroad every third year. Recent conferences have been held in London (2008), Milwaukee (2007), Long Beach (2006), and Ifrane, Morocco (2005). Other foreign hosts have included institutions in Spain, Italy, and Korea. In 2009 the WHA met in Salem, Massachusetts hosted by Salem State College, in 2010 was held in San Diego, and in 2011 it was held in Beijing, hosted by Capital Normal University. The 2012 conference was held in Albuquerque at Albuquerque High School, the first time a conference has been held at a high school and underscores the WHA commitment to teachers. Similarly, the 2013 conference in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis) to be hosted at North Hennepin Community College displays a commitment to another segment of the World History Association community. Our 2014 conference will take us to the University of Costa Rica, our first time in Latin America. Sites for 2015 and beyond are currently under consideration. Additionally, in 2010 the WHA launched the first in a series of annual symposia—cosponsored with an institute or university outside the USA and focused on a discrete issue in world history. The first of these was held in Istanbul in late October 2010 and co-hosted by Istanbul Sehir University, centered on “Byzantine and Ottoman Civilizations in World History.” In January of 2012, Panassastra University hosted the WHA in Siem Reap, Cambodia with the theme of "Southeast Asia and World History." The WHA will hold a symposium in Freemantle, Western Australia, with the theme, Empire: Faith and Conflict, in October, 2013.
Suggestions for future conferences and symposia are welcome and should be sent to the Conferences Committee Chair and/or Executive Director