Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations

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The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) was founded in order to “promote excellence in research and teaching of American foreign relations history and to facilitate professional collaboration among scholars and students in this field around the world.”[1] It is the preeminent organization in its field, with over 1,400 current members. It hosts an annual conference every year, and publishes the quarterly Diplomatic History. In addition, it also publishes a triennial newsletter, Passport.[2] SHAFR has increasingly fostered connections with international institutions and organizations. Since its founding, it has admitted a growing number of international scholars.

SHAFR was founded in April, 1967, as a result of the efforts of Joseph O’Grady, Betty Unterbeger, Armin Rappaport, and Dave Trask. The first meeting took place during the meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Chicago, IL, and was attended by around 75 scholars in the field.[3]

Founded in the midst of tremendous social and political change, the Society sought to support new understandings of the United States’ role in the world, and to attract attention to the foreign relations of other countries. Finding an audience interested in such an approach, the Society grew. In 1976, it announced that, after a debate lasting since the beginning of SHAFR, the organization would publish a journal; this journal would be Diplomatic History, the first issue of which was published in January 1978.[4]

The journal is “devoted to U.S. international history and foreign relations, broadly defined, including grand strategy, diplomacy, and issues involving gender, culture, ethnicity, and ideology.”[5] The journal is currently based out of the University of Colorado Boulder.[6]

Additionally, SHAFR publishes Passport, the newsletter of the Society. Passport publishes reviews, round-tables, pedagogical studies, reports on archives, and other matters of interests to historians of foreign relations. It is released every January, April, and September.[7]

SHAFR also funds a variety of fellowships, grants, and financial awards to aid in research projects and to recognize excellence in the field. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these is the Stuart L. Bernath book prize, awarded every year to the best first book written by a scholar in the field.[8]

SHAFR annually hosts an academic conference in June. Every other year, the conference is held in Washington, D.C.; non-Washington year meeting places vary, and have recently included Lexington, KY and Hartford, CT.[9] In addition to a variety of discussion panels, the conference features addresses by experts in foreign relations, including those outside of academia. Recent speakers have included John L. Gaddis, George C. Herring, Fred Kaplan, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran.[10]

Besides its own official activities, SHAFR also regularly cooperates with other academic and public history organizations. For example, SHAFR supports the National History Center’s Washington History Seminar, an initiative designed “to facilitate the understanding of contemporary affairs in light of historical knowledge of all times and places, and from multiple perspectives.”[11] Notably, SHAFR also hosts events every year at the meeting of the American Historical Association.

In 1986, Professor Betty Miller Unterberger of Texas A&M University became the first woman president of the organization, then 99 percent male in membership.[12]


  1. ^ "AHA Affiliated Societies". 
  2. ^ "AHA Affiliated Societies". 
  3. ^ Crean, Jeffrey. From ‘Interest Group’ to Institution: The Formative Years of SHAFR. 
  4. ^ Crean, Jeffrey. From ‘Interest Group’ to Institution: The Formative Years of SHAFR. 
  5. ^ "Diplomatic History and the University of Colorado Boulder". 
  6. ^ "Diplomatic History at University of Colorado Boulder". 
  7. ^ "Passport". 
  8. ^ "SHAFR Awards and Prizes" Check |url= value (help). 
  9. ^ "SHAFR Conferences". 
  10. ^ "ibid.". 
  11. ^ "Conferences - Washington History Seminars". 
  12. ^ "Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations". Retrieved October 23, 2010. 

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