The Center for Washington Area Studies (CWAS) was established in 1980 by the former Vice President for Academic Affairs Roderick French to investigate D.C. history and culture. French selected Howard Gillette to serve as the first director of the Center. Among its early monographs are studies of American Indian cultures of the Potomac Valley, a history of the Washington police 1800-1886, and neighborhood histories of Foggy Bottom and Brookland. In the 1990s, the Center shifted focus to include social science approaches to contemporary political and public policy issues.
In 2004, the Center was integrated into the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, where it remains. From 2004 to present, CWAS has sponsored and participated in conferences, symposia, workshops, and similar meetings on topics of interest to scholars of Washington area matters.
The archives of the Center for Washington Area Studies can be found here.