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This organisation, whose full title is the International Commission for the History and Theory of Historiography, is affiliated to the Comité International des Sciences Historiques and makes an important contribution to the quinquennial International Congress of Historical Sciences. It seeks in addition to fulfil the following roles:

  • to provide a strategic centre for the advancement and co-ordination of efforts to promote the theory and history of historiography as subjects of research and teaching among historians across the world
  • to encourage frequent conferences, workshops and consultancies aimed at promoting the subject in a variety of learning situations
  • to establish and maintain close links with learned journals and academic institutions specialising in theoretical and historiographical approaches to the study of the past
  • to avoid regional or ethnocentric preoccupations in order to ensure that the Commission reflects the historical interests of all cultures

Membership gives access to the programs and opportunities for co-operative endeavour which this unique institution offers to historians who are interested in its objectives and convinced of the importance of historiography as a form of intellectual enquiry.


History of the Commission

The Commission on Historiography came into being at the 15th International Congress of Historical Sciences which was held at Bucharest in 1980. Inspired originally by the distinguished French historiographer, Charles-Olivier Carbonell, the initiative had a clear European focus and constituency in its early years, with a number of European historians playing a key role in its development, including Bianca Valota Cavalotti (Italy), Lucian Boia (Rumania), Andrzej Grabski (Poland), Hans Schleier (GDR), Karl-Georg Faber (FRG), Wolfgang Mommsen (FRG) and Jerzy Topoplski (Poland); also Georg Iggers and Richard Vann from the USA and Zhang Zhilian from the People's Republic of China.

The Commission launched in 1982 the journal Storia della storiografia , edited originally out of Milan by Valota Cavalotti and later from the University of Turin , where Edoardo Tortarollo has acted as chief editor since 1990. Publishing articles in English, French, German, and Italian, this journal has earned a central place in the history of historiography.

In 1990 Wolfgang Mommsen succeeded Carbonell as President and Storia became a free-standing journal in order to give its editor greater autonomy. Meanwhile the theoretical debates of the 1980s had increased pressures to introduce more theory into the concerns of the Commission and in 1995 “Theory” was added to the full title of the Commission. In the same year Georg Iggers succeeded Mommsen as President; in 2000 Richard T. Vann, senior editor of History and Theory , was elected president with a new administrative committee and a re-shaped Bureau, as the executive committee of the Commission is called. At the International Congress in Sydney in 2005 Professor Masayuki Sato of Kofu University in Japan was chosen as the fourth President of the Commission.

The Commission during its first twenty-five years of existence has devoted its greatest efforts to expanding interest in all aspects of historiography and attracting to its membership people from diverse cultural backgrounds. These efforts have had some success in Australia , China , and Japan . Much remains to be done in promoting the Commission's work in India , the Middle Eastern countries, and South America . The Commission would also like to play a more prominent role in North American academic life.


Organization and Work

The Commission seeks to maintain a stable core membership of around 100 scholars. Its administrative work is done by a Bureau of ten members elected every five years at the International Congress. At Oslo in 2000 the meeting decided to construct the new Bureau in two parts: an administrative committee of five people, and five other members elected for their distinction and potential contribution to the discussions of the Bureau. Offices selected for inclusion in the Bureau are the President, Vice-President, Secretary-General, Program Director and Treasurer. Although currently based in Japan , Australia , the United States , and Poland , they can consult frequently through the Internet. All members of the Commission will be informed of forthcoming conferences and opportunities for publishing in the field of historiography through an interactive web-site currently being constructed. It will also allow members to discuss issues in historiography with other members of the Commission.

Except for funding obtained in connection with specific projects, the Commission does not possess funds of its own and cannot give grants or travel bursaries. It depends on the dues paid by members and on the generosity and hospitality of those universities to which it brings its conferences and workshops. Members normally approach their own institutions or national funding bodies for reimbursement of their expenses in attending Commission meetings.

Such meetings are now becoming numerous. There were international colloquia in Montpellier in 1983 and Paris in 1988. In Budapest in 1993 a conference was held on the historiography of the former Eastern European socialist countries, which was also the theme of the sessions at the Montreal Congress in 1995. From 1995 to 2000 other conferences were held in Budapest and Poznan, and Rolf Torstendahl, a Bureau member, organised two conferences in Uppsala ( Sweden ), one in preparation for a session he put together for the Oslo Congress. In the next five years conferences in the United States, Scotland , and Japan and another one was co-sponsored in Budapest .  In 2006 another conference was held in Japan .  In the early stages of planning are meetings in Greece and China . At the 21 th Congress in Amsterdam in 2010 there will be a full program of events. Details of these plainly change over time and members are urged to contact the Program Director, Ewa Domanska [ewa@amu.edu.pl; Department of History, Adam Mickiewicz University , ul. Sw. Marcin 78, 61-809 Poznan , Poland ] for current information.


The Future

Historical theory and historiography now have a larger place in historical research and teaching than ever before and the Commission sees a significant role for itself in consolidating and extending that advance. Its members have unrivalled understanding of the theoretical and practical issues surrounding the mounting of courses in historical theory and historiography. They are happy to help institutions or individuals facing these problems for the first time and to bring together people who may need to talk to one another. They also form a formidable phalanx of authors with experience in dealing with publishers who reflect the Commission's interests.

Any historian or philosopher wishing to be considered for membership should write in the first instance to the President or Secretary-General. (Their names and addresses are included in the enclosed sheet). Any member who wishes to propose the name of a new member should likewise inform an officer of the Bureau. (Proposals do not require a seconding recommendation.)

In the coming quinquennium the Commission will be announcing its own projects, colloquia, and workshops intended to facilitate sharing opinion in relation to issues prominent in historical theory and historiography. Its Bureau and membership strongly hope that others will join them in this important work.