A Brief History of the
American Society for the History of Rhetoric

The American Society for the History of Rhetoric was organized, in 1977, as the American Branch of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric. Its purpose is to foster the study of rhetoric in all historical periods in American as well as other cultures.

In 1977, a small group of historians of rhetoric gathered at the Speech Communication Association (now National Communication Association) convention in Washington, D.C. Concerned about the lack of panels on the history of rhetoric at SCA conferences and encouraged by the inaugural meeting of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric (held in Zurich in June of 1977), these scholars proposed at least one panel on the history of rhetoric at the 1978 SCA meeting in Minneapolis. Between 1978 and 1990 the organization grew both in size and in diversity. It sponsored panels at the annual SCA conference and, in 1986, held its first “pre-conference” on the day before the SCA conference. In 1990, the organization changed its name to the American Society for the History of Rhetoric.

The disciplinary interests of our members include classics, cultural studies, English, history, linguistics, modern languages, philosophy, and speech communication.

ASHR’s goal is to promote the study of both the theory and practice of rhetoric in all periods and languages and its relationship with poetics, politics, religion, law, and other cultural influences.

Written by Sean Patrick O’Rourke, Furman University