The Philippine National Historical Society can trace its beginnings to the History Club at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU), organized by Eulogio B. Rodriguez, sometime in the late 1920s when he was a history teacher in the same institution while concurrently serving as Assistant Director of the National Library. The PWU History Club published a quarterly called The Historical Review which fostered historical scholarship during the pre-war period.
In 1941, Rodriguez and Eufronio M. Alip transformed the student history club into the Philippine Historical Society, an organization beyond a mere student history club. The charter members included a veritable “Who’s Who” in Filipino intellectual life at that time. Among them were Antonio K. Abad, Elias M. Ataviado, Evergisto Bazaco, O.P., Conrado Benitez, Manuel I. Carreon, Horacio V. de la Costa, S.J., Jose Lopez del Castillo, Gabriel F. Fabella, Leandro H. Fernandez, Tomas S. Fonacier, Mariano del Prado Goyena, Maximo M. Kalaw, Pura Villanueva Kalaw, Leoncio Rizal Lopez, Paz Policarpio-Mendez, Camilo Osias, Jose Villa Panganiban, William C. Repetti, S.J., Walter Robb, Miguel Selga , S. J., Benito T. Soliven, Leopoldo B. Uichanco, Jaime C. de Veyra, Gregorio Yabes, Nicolas Zafra, and Gregorio F. Zaide.
The Society, according to its constitution and by-laws, aimed to “encourage and undertake the study of Philippine history.” To this day, this remains the fundamental aim of PNHS as it seeks to catalyze nationwide interest in and appreciation of history as the bedrock of Filipino national identity. The Historical Review became the Journal of the Philippine Historical Society, with the first issue coming out in July 1941.
Eulogio B. Rodriguez served as President of the Society at the time of its founding and throughout the years of the Second World War. Eufronio M. Alip succeeded Rodriguez around 1946, and served as the Society’s President until his demise in 1976, when Marcelino A. Foronda, Jr., took over. In 1965, the Philippine Historical Society changed its official name to Philippine National Historical Society. In the same year, the Society approved The Journal of History as the new name of its official publication, now on its 59th volume.
The Society aggressively contributed towards setting the pace and agenda of historical research in the Philippines during the incumbency of Foronda, under whose leadership the Society effected a major intellectual shift in the agenda of Filipino historians away from what Resil B. Mojares, a distinguished lifetime member of PNHS, describes as “classical colonial scholarship,” towards studies depicting the grassroots of Filipino culture and the life histories of individual Filipino communities in the regions.
This shift was concretized by the PNHS in its First National Conference on Local and National History held at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City in 1978. Such a shift in intellectual focus has led to more research by historians on various aspects of provincial/regional history which have revised age-old stereotypes and perceptions regarding the Filipinos and their history and culture. Since 1978, almost every year in October, the traditional annual national conference on local and national history is convened by the Philippine National Historical Society. The focus on local history was continued under the presidency of Leslie E. Bauzon from 1983-1994. In these conferences, papers are presented not only on history, but also on other disciplines, such as archaeology, heritage studies, literature, anthropology, and other aspects of Philippine studies. Upon his appointment as Visiting Professor at Tsukuba University in Japan, Dr. Bauzon turned over the presidency of PNHS in February 1994 to Bernardita R. Churchill, former Chairman of the Department of History, UP Diliman. Dr. Bauzon was designated as PNHS President emeritus. Under the term of the current President, the PNHS has continued its focus on multi-disciplinary/interdisciplinary studies in local history (provincial, regional), looking especially at cultural communities and regions that have not received much attention in historical research,
The diversity and comprehensiveness of the program of activities of PNHS merited from the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC) an Institutional/Disciplinal Award in 1993 as one of two best member-associations of the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC), of which the PNHS is a Charter Member. Then PNHS President, Leslie E. Bauzon was Chairman of the PSSC Executive Board from January-December 1983. From 1991-1993, he served as Chairman of the PSSC Governing Council.
The PNHS was once again awarded as one of two Outstanding Regular Member Organization “for its faithful and timely compliance with all PSSC membership requirements for the past five years” at the PSSC General Assembly on February 16, 2013. The award certificate reads:
The Philippine Social Science Council presents this Outstanding Regular Member Award to the Philippine National Historical Society for its faithful and timely compliance with all PSSC membership requirements for the past five years.
On the same occasion, the first Virginia A. Miralao Excellence in Research Award was given to Marco Stefan B. Lagman, PNHS Board Member, for outstanding article published in the Journal of History 2012 entitled, “Agricultural and Urban Land as Property and Resources in Nineteenth Century Pampanga,” Journal of History (January-December 2012).
In recognition of its participation in the celebration of the Centennial of the Philippine Revolution (1996) and the Proclamation of Philippine Independence (1998), the PNHS, on April 30, 1999, received the Gawad Sentenaryo from the National Centennial Commission:
Bilang pagkilala at pasasalamat sa mahalagang pakiki-isa nito sa layunin at adhikain ng Komisyon upang maisakatuparan ang matagumpay na Pagdiriwang ng Sentenaryo ng Kasarinlan ng Pilipinas noong ika-12 ng Hunyo, 1998.