Publication Date

October 1, 2001

Perspectives Section


The International Committee of Historical Sciences, known by its French acronym CISH, was born out of the chaos of World War I in an attempt to reanimate and in some cases re-create ties among historians that had been disrupted or destroyed in the Great War. CISH is an organization of national committees like the American Historical Association, affiliated international organizations, and internal commissions. Over time, its mission evolved. One of its main activities in the era of the Cold War, for example, was to keep lines of communication open between East and West. Partly this was accomplished by the large international gatherings, held every five years, to bring historians together from around the world. The latest of these gatherings was in Oslo in 2000, but others have recently been held in Madrid (1990) and Montreal (1995). The next meeting will be in Sydney (2005).

From August 24 to 26 of this year, the Bureau or Board of Directors of CISH met at Princeton University with the financial support of the AHA and of the university's Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies to make preliminary plans for the Sydney meeting as well as to consider a number of issues related to the political situation of historians in various countries. Members of the bureau also continued efforts to formulate plans to reach out to regions of the world underrepresented in CISH. The president of CISH, Jürgen Kocka (Berlin), and the secretary-general, Jean-Claude Robert (Montreal), are spearheading these efforts and many more of value to the history profession around the world.

The intellectual high point of the bureau meeting was a session devoted to the brilliant work of some younger historians in a variety of fields. Andrew Isenberg of Princeton University discussed some of his research on the ecological impact of the California Gold Rush. Khaled Fahmy of New York University offered a critique of nationalist historiography in Egypt, and Samantha Kelly of Rutgers University, presented some of her insights into the construction of medieval kingship in the later Middle Ages, using Robert of Naples as an example. The organizers of the meeting as well as the CISH bureau want to thank the AHA and to urge its members to become familiar with the important work of CISH.

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