Herbert Baxter Adams

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Herbert Baxter Adams
Herbert Baxter Adams - Brady-Handy.jpg
Herbert Baxter Adams, prominent American historian
Born (1850-04-16)April 16, 1850
Shutesbury, Massachusetts
Died July 30, 1901(1901-07-30) (aged 51)
Amherst, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Fields Educator and historian
Institutions Johns Hopkins University
Alma mater Phillips Exeter Academy,
Amherst College,
Thesis (Ph.D summa cum laude, without written dissertation) (1876)
Academic advisors Johann Gustav Droysen
Johann Kaspar Bluntschli
Doctoral students Charles Homer Haskins
Frederick Jackson Turner

Herbert Baxter Adams (April 16, 1850 – July 30, 1901) was an American educator and historian.


Adams was born to Nathaniel Dickinson Adams and Harriet (Hastings) Adams in Shutesbury, Massachusetts. On his mother's side, he was a descendant of Thomas Hastings who came from the East Anglia region of England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.[1] Adams received his early training in the Amherst, Massachusetts public schools and Phillips Exeter Academy. He graduated from Amherst College in 1872.

In 1873 Adams traveled to Europe to study and write. In 1874 he then moved to Heidelberg, Germany to pursue the Ph.D. degree. There he was influenced by Johann Gustav Droysen and Johann Kaspar Bluntschli, the latter also becoming his mentor. Heidelberg did not then require a thesis from its doctoral candidates, instead it required an oral examination, for which he chose political science for his major field (Hauptfach), with two minors (Nebenfächer) in public and international law and in political and cultural history. Adams took the oral examination on July 13, 1876, which he passed summa cum laude.[2]

He was a fellow in history at Johns Hopkins University from 1876 to 1878, associate from 1878 to 1883, and was appointed associate professor in 1883. He is credited with bringing the study of politics into the realm of the social sciences.

At Johns Hopkins, in 1880, Adams began his famous seminar in history, where a large proportion of the next generation of American historians trained. Adams founded the "Johns Hopkins Studies in Historical and Political Science," the first of such series. He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1881.[3] He brought about the organization in 1884 of the American Historical Association, for which he was secretary until 1900, when he resigned and was made first vice president.[4] His historical writings introduced scientific methods of investigation that influenced many historians, including Frederick Jackson Turner and John Spencer Bassett. He authored Life and Writings of Jared Sparks (1893) and many articles and influential reports on the study of the social sciences.

His principal writings are The Germanic Origin of the New England Towns; Saxon Tithing-Men in America; Norman Constables in America; Village Communities; Methods of Historical Study, and Maryland's Influence upon Land Cessions to the United States. All these papers are published in the Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, edited by Prof. Adams, 4 vols. (Baltimore, 1883-'86). Although less known for his contributions to the history of education, Adams was essential to its early development. He edited the circular series titled, "Contributions to American Educational History," which was printed and distributed by the U.S. Bureau of Education.

Herbert B. Adams died in 1901.



  1. ^ Buckminster, Lydia N.H., The Hastings Memorial, A Genealogical Account of the Descendants of Thomas Hastings of Watertown, Mass. from 1634 to 1864. Boston: Samuel G. Drake Publisher (an undated NEHGS photoduplicate of the 1866 edition), 19.
  2. ^ Cunningham, Raymond J. (1981). "The German Historical World of Herbert Baxter Adams: 1874-1876". The Journal of American History. Organization of American Historians. 68 (2 (Sep., 1981)): 261–275. JSTOR 1889972. doi:10.2307/1889972. 
  3. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory Archived 2017-04-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Adams, Herbert Baxter". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 
  5. ^ "Herbert Baxter Adams Prize". American Historical Association. 2008-01-11. Archived from the original on 2008-07-04. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 



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