Phi Alpha Theta

The International Honor Society in History, Phi Alpha Theta, was organized at the University of Arkansas on March 17, 1921. Since that time it has grown to over six hundred and fifty chapters in fifty states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and the Philippine Islands. It is the largest, in number of chapters, of the accredited honor societies holding membership in the Association of College Honor Societies. The total number of its initiates, since organization, is more than 150,000.

A viable society, Phi Alpha Theta is composed of chapters in properly accredited colleges and universities. All students in these institutions, who have completed the required number of History courses and are maintaining high standards in their college or university studies, are eligible for membership.

At the same time, Phi Alpha Theta is a professional society the objective of which is the promotion of the study of History through the encouragement of research, good teaching, publication, and the exchange of learning and thought among historians. It seeks to bring students, teachers, and writers of History together both intellectually and socially, and it encourages and assists, in a variety of ways, historical research and publication by its members.


Phi Alpha Theta performs many services for its members.

At its biennial convention, usually held near the locale of the American Historical Association convention, students, undergraduate and graduate alike, are provided an opportunity to meet with distinguished historians and to present papers which they have written. Phi Alpha Theta is one of the few honor and professional historical societies to encourage the presentation of papers by students on its programs. At the same time, a number of outstanding historians also appear on the program of every biennial convention, so that members of the Society have the opportunity to hear their contributions to historical scholarship. Through these meetings students and professors have the opportunity to get to know others interested in the field of History and to enjoy the social and intellectual dialogue that takes place.

Each biennial convention is also the occasion for an active social program, which generally includes a reception, and tours of various kinds. Phi Alpha Theta helps to underwrite the cost of transportation of a delegate from each chapter attending its conventions.

The Society also presents special programs of its own at the annual meetings of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Southern Historical Association, the Western Historical Association, the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association and many of the State Historical Associations.


The Historian

The Society, as part of its work toward the encouragement of historical study, publishes The Historian, a distinguished historical quarterly, whose pages are open to its members for the publication of the results of their studies in all fields of History. It also contains reviews of the most important current books, news in the fields of History, relative to historical activities and other items of interest to the Society's members. The Historian has the third largest circulation among all historical journals published in the United States. Each initiate receives a year's subscription as part of the initiation fee.

The Newsletter

In 1981 a new publication, The Newsletter, was added. It reaches subscribing members three times a year and carries news items covering all the current activities, awards, and grants of the Society.


As an aid to chapter officers and members, the Society also publishes an Officers Handbook, a Faculty Advisors Guide, and a Directive for the Handling of the Regional Meetings.


On the local level, each chapter of the Society serves in many ways as an adjunct to the Department of History in its college or university and often is a helpful outlet for the expression of the opinions and wishes of the students of History in their relations with the department, the library, and the college. Through the local chapter's promotion of social activities for all the students of History in the institution, students and faculty meet in such a manner that they get to know each other in ways other than the more formal relationships of the classroom.

Another very beneficial aspect of the Society's work is the regional activity of groups of chapters conveniently located in fairly close regional juxtaposition. Many regional meetings are held each year, usually for one day each, at which papers are presented and the members of many chapters are brought together. Approximately 50 regional meetings are held each year and more than 700 student papers are presented.


In its effort to promote the study of History, Phi Alpha Theta has established a number of prizes and awards for its members.

The six annual Paper Prize Awards are awarded for papers by members of the Society. The "George P. Hammond Graduate Paper Award" of $200.00 is presented for the best paper by agraduate student member. The "Lynn W. Turner Undergraduate Paper Award" of S150.00 is presented for the best paper by an undergraduate student member. The other four awards, each in the amount of $100.00, are for papers submitted by either undergraduate or graduate student members of the Society.

The papers submitted in this competition may be devoted to any field of History. Each must, however, be recommended as of high scholarly quality by the faculty advisor of the chapter of Phi Alpha Theta to which the student submitting it belongs, or by the Chair of the History Department in his or her college or university.

All six prize winning papers are reviewed by the Editor of The Historian and, if found to be of publishable quality, will be published in The Historian if the author so desires. Interested members should consult the announcements of these awards for instructions as to format, deadlines, etc.


Phi Alpha Theta offers its members six graduate scholarship awards:

The "A. F. Zimmerman Scholarship", in the amount of $1,250.00 is presented to a student member entering graduate school for the first time; for work leading to the M. A. degree in History.

The "John Pine Memorial Award", in the amount of $l,000.00 is awarded to a graduate student member for advanced graduate study.

The other four awards, each in the amount of $750.00, are given either to student members entering graduate school for the first time, or to student members engaged in advanced graduate study in History.

Members interested in applying for these awards should apply to the International Secretary-Treasurer for the necessary forms.


This program, established by action of the 60th Anniversary Convention (December 27-30, 1981) held in Saint Louis, Missouri, is funded entirely by contributions from individuals and chapters. As announced by the committee handling these awards, the program is divided into three "steps" which are to be established as funds become available. It was possible to begin with "Step I" in the fall of 1983.

The first program, or "Step I", is an annual grant of $l,000 to a faculty member who has served as Faculty Advisor for five or more years. This grant is awarded for any special activity of the advisor, such as research, writing assistance, travel for the advancement of his, or her career, etc. An application giving in detail the plans and programs of the advisor covering the period of the grant, is to be made, in quadruplicate. The application mustinclude a letter of recommendation from the advisor's chairperson or dean. Prospective applicants should request an application form from the International Secretary-Treasurer.

The second program, or "Step II", is an annual grant of $1,000 to be given to an advanced graduate student member of the Society for final work leading to the Ph.D. degree in History. The application for this grant should give full details as to uses to be made of the grant and this application is, also, to be made in quadruplicate.

The third program, or "Step III", will be the establishment of lectureships, similar to the annual Phi Beta Kappa lectures. The extent of these grants will depend upon the availability of funds after Faculty Advisor and Graduate Student Awards have been covered each year. Chapters interested in sponsoring such a lecture program should file a detailed application as to time of year, type of program planned, and assistance, if any, which could be given by the chapter, or college/university in sponsoring the program.

DEADLINE for applications for the Faculty Advisor Grant and for the Advanced Graduate Student Member Grant will be June 1st of each year, and the decision is to be announced by August 15th of each year. All applications or requests for further information should be directed to the office of the International Secretary-Treasurer, 2333 Liberty St., Allentown, PA 18104


To encourage greater chapter activity and more interest in the field of History the Society now offers six annual "Best Chapter Awards" each in the amount of $250.00. The awards are presented for a specified schedule of activities and projects carried on by the local chapter. So that all chapters will be on a fair competitive basis, the chapters are divided into six groups predicated upon the enrollment of the college/university w here the chapter is established. The divisions are for those chapters on campuses of less than 2,500 students, second, those that are between 2,500 and 4,500; the third group for enrollment of 4,500 to 8,000; the fourth group on those campuses with 8,000 to 12,000 students enrolled; the fifth group for campuses with 12,000 to 18,000 students; and the sixth ,group for campuses with more than 18,000 students enrolled.


For the encouragement of publication in History, Phi Alpha Theta offers two annual awards for books published by its members.

One of these awards, for $500.00 is granted for that book judged the best first book in History published by a member of the Society.

A second award, also for $500.00, is offered for the best second or subsequent book published by a member. If a person winning one of the awards is a member of an active chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the History Department on that campus receives an additional award of $100.00 for the purchase of books for the library of that institution.

Members interested in submitting books for consideration for these awards should request instructions from the International Secretary-Treasurer.


This award was given for the first time, at the end of 1970, and six grants have been made. The purpose of the award is to help make possible the publication of an outstanding manuscript, in the field of History, by a member of the Society. It will assist in covering the publication costs of such a manuscript and is designed to assist, primarily, the younger historian in his early publication efforts. This award will be in addition to the Best Book Awards already established by the Society.


Phi Alpha Theta maintains a placement bureau for the benefit of its members; the services of this bureau are available to the members of the Society without charge. Members who are available for college teaching positions in the field of History are invited to register with the International Secretary, who administers the bureau. Information concerning available personnel will be forwarded to any department chair in the country who requests it; all such requests and all the information involved are handled on a strictly confidential basis.

Through the pamphlet "History. But What Do I Do With It?" the Society points at many other occupations now being opened to those with a background in History. Members interested in availing themselves of this service should write to the International Secretary for instructions. Requests from the Chair of the History Departments for information relative to available personnel for positions should also be directed to him.


Membership in Phi Alpha Theta is recognized by the U.S. Civil Service Commission as a credit qualifying the member for grade GS-7 rather than GS-5. For further information contact the headquarters office.


As part of its commitment to academic excellence Phi Alpha Theta has played and continues to play a very active role in the Association of College Honor Societies. In 1945 the first departmental honor societies were admitted to the association, and Phi Alpha Theta was one of the three initial members in this category.



An undergraduate student must have completed at least twelve semester hours in History, with a grade in all History courses averaging above the second highest grade on the working scale; must have a general average of at least the second highest grade in the working scale in at least two-thirds of the remainder of his or her work; and must rank in the highest 35% of the class.


A graduate student must have completed at least one-third of the residence requirements for the Masters Degree before becoming eligible for election to membership. Averages in all courses completed for graduate credit must be at least midway between the highest and second highest grade on the working scale, and no grade in the graduate record may be "failure" or its equivalent. In institutions which do not have the traditional ABCD grade system, the judgment of the head of the Department of History or the History faculty shall determine eligibility on the basis of equivalency with the above standards.


Faculty members above the rank of graduate assistant, who are teaching in the field of History, shall be eligible for membership without being required to satisfy provisions of the foregoing paragraphs of this section.


Initiation into a chapter of Phi Alpha Theta confers life membership on the individual. Payment of the initiation fee, in existence at that time is the only financial expense for membership on the international level.

However, there are three voluntary means of continuing to actively support the projects of the society. The Sustaining Membership entails an annual contribution of $30.00 and entitles the individual to receive The Historian for one year, the News Letter for one year, and the balance goes to the endowment fund. The individual subscription rate for The Historian for subscribing members is $15.00. There is also an optional annual dues contribution of $10, which entitles the member to receive the three issues of the Newsletter. A member may also elect to pay only for a subscription to The Historian and the optional dues.

The International Office of Phi Alpha Theta is at 2333 Liberty Street, Allentown, Pennsylvania 18104. The Executive Secretary is Dr. Donald B. Hoffman, at the same address. He holds the position of International Secretary-Treasurer of the International Council.