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, Asia, Africa 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.