The first professional historians were more consistent than some of their amateur associates in rejecting the popular patriotism that imputed a radical uniqueness to American history. In writing institutional history, conservative professors felt the solid ground of the European past beneath their feet. Herbert Levi Osgood felt keenly the general desire of conservative intellectuals in the late nineteenth century to understand American history in a wider transatlantic context. The investigation of European origins turned from the remote to the immediate English background of American colonial history. Interest in local institutions correspondingly diminished. Colonial history ceased to be a mere prelude to later American history and acquired a new interest and amplitude of its own. Historians had conventionally grouped the colonies by region-New England, middle, and southern. Herbert Baxter Adams and his students dealt chiefly with legislation, and the economic historians also focused attention on the operations of government.