Merrill Francis Hartshorn, 75, executive secretary of the National Council for The Social Studies for 31 years before his retirement in 1974, died of complications of diabetes Aug. 12 at Fairfax Hospital.

Mr. Hartshorn had also taught during summer sessions at American University, Syracuse University and the universities of Wisconsin, Colorado and Toronto and he had spent two summers as a member of the staff of the Social Studies workshop at Harvard.

He had held a variety of educational consulting jobs including special consultant to the High Commissioner of Germany in 1950 and consultant to the ministry of education in Indonesia in 1970. He directed a German-American cultural exchange program in Tutzing, Germany, in 1962, established a seminar on Japanese life and culture for U.S. educators in Kyoto in 1958 and led a conference in Paris in 1956 dealing with the treatment of Asians in Western textbooks.

A resident of Fairfax, Mr. Hartshorn was born in Taunton, Mass., and graduated from Harvard where he also earned a master's degree. He was a member of the American Historical Association, the American Political Science Association and the National Council for Geographic Education.

Survivors include his wife, Sibyl McCarley Hartshorn of Fairfax; a brother, Howard, of North Dighton, Mass., and a sister, Miriam Wonson of Oak Bluffs, Mass., and Brooklyn, Conn.