Focus and History

The Institute of History of the Czech Academy of Sciences builds on the tradition of the Czechoslovak State Historical Publishing Institute founded in 1921 by the Czechoslovak government following the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. The primary mission of the institute was to publish a wealth of sources on Czech and European history. In 1952, the institute was integrated into the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. As a consequence of its activities during the Prague Spring, the institute was not only renamed the Institute of Czechoslovak and World History (1970–1990) but was also seriously undermined by the forced political resignation (e.g. František Šmahel) or even imprisonment of some of its leading experts (Jaroslav Mezník). The palette of research subjects was also restructured. Despite these hardships, the institute managed to produce a number of valuable contributions to the field during this period, such as a synthetic history of Czechoslovakia up to 1848 and a series of monographs focusing primarily on older Czech history.

The Institute of History entered a new phase of growth under democratic circumstances following the Velvet Revolution of 1989, namely thanks to the immeasurable efforts of the new management headed by leading European medievalist Professor František Šmahel (1990–1998). Further development towards international excellence in research, the application of new methodologies, expansion of collaboration with foreign institutions, and the strengthening of the institute’s role in university education as well as the building of a basic infrastructure (editions, bibliographies, large dictionary and encyclopaedic series, journals, etc.) would follow with Professor Šmahel’s successors, Professor Jaroslav Pánek, a specialist in Central European cultural history of the early modern period (1998-2005), Professor Svatava Raková, a leading Czech Americanist (2005–2012), and Professor Eva Semotanová (2012–2017), a prominent expert in historical geography who played a significant role in developing this promising discipline in the Czech Republic after 1989.

Since 2007, the Institute of History has held the status of public research institution. It carries out basic research in the fields of Czech, Czechoslovak, and general history. It is a leading research centre that systematically examines the past of the Czech and Czechoslovak state in the full scope of its historical existence from the Early Middle Ages to its modern and contemporary history.