About Herbert Baxter Adams: American educator and historian (1850 - 1901) | Biography, Bibliography, Facts, Career, Life
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Herbert Baxter Adams
American educator and historian

Herbert Baxter Adams

Herbert Baxter Adams
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American educator and historian
Was Historian Professor Educator Political scientist
From United States of America
Field Academia Social science Politics
Gender male
Birth 16 April 1850, Shutesbury, USA
Death 30 July 1901, Amherst, USA (aged 51 years)
Star sign Aries
Amherst College
Heidelberg University
Phillips Exeter Academy
The details (from wikipedia)


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.

Adams received his early training in the Amherst, Massachusetts public schools followed by 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.

The new Johns Hopkins University, which opened in 1876, wanted to bring German-style graduate education to the United States. Adams was hired as fellow in history from 1876 to 1878, associate from 1878 to 1883, and was appointed associate professor in 1883. He is credited with bringing the study of history into the realm of the social sciences: "Adams, with his German training, was determined to inaugurate through the seminar system the scientific study of history based on careful, critical examination of the sources. He hoped to make the study of history an independent professional pursuit rather than a mere branch of literature."

From 1878 to 1881 Adams was also a lecturer in history at Smith College.

At Johns Hopkins, in 1880, Adams began his famous seminar in history, where a large proportion of the next generation of American historians trained. Among his students were Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Dixon, Jr., and Charles McLean Andrews. Adams founded the "Johns Hopkins Studies in Historical and Political Science," the first such series. He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1881. 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. 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.

"Adams…sought to trace American political institutions back to the primitive democracy of the ancient Germanic tribes. The Anglo-Saxonists were staunch racists in their outlook, believing that only latter-day Aryan or Teutonic nations were capable of self-government."

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, 1883–1986). 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.


  • Adams House, an undergraduate dormitory at Johns Hopkins University, is named for him.
  • The American Historical Association's Herbert Baxter Adams prize was named for him.
  • The Herbert Baxter Adams Professorship at Johns Hopkins University was created in his honor.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 09 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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