International Institute of Social History

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International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam

The International Institute of Social History (Dutch: Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, abbreviation: IISG) is a historical research institute in Amsterdam. It was founded in 1935 by Nicolaas Posthumus. The IISG is part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

It was founded as a new location for documents relating to the history of social movements, in particular the labour movement, after the Nazi takeover of Germany rendered that country an unsuitable place for their safekeeping; the Soviet Union was not considered a trustworthy alternative, owing in large part to its model of "socialist competition".

The institute is one of the world's largest documentary- and research-centres for social history. It owns items relating to Wolfgang Abendroth, Friedrich Adler, Angelica Balabanoff, Alexander Berkman, Christiaan Cornelissen, Friedrich Engels, Emma Goldman, Albert Grzesinski, Wolfgang Harich, Karl Kautsky, Arthur Lehning, Karl Marx, Max Nettlau, Augustin Souchy, Leon Trotsky (six running metres of material) and Georg von Vollmar, as well as the archives of Russia's Socialist-Revolutionary Party (1834–1934). Items belonging to anarchist and Trotskyist fighters in the Spanish Civil War are also numerous. Furthermore, the archive of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (214 running metres of material) is located at the IISG.


IISH research focuses on the transnational and transcontinental study of labour, labour relations and workers' social movements in the broadest sense of the word.

The International Institute of Social History collects archives, documentation, publications, objects, images and datasets pertaining to, on the one hand, individuals and organizations belonging to movements that address important social issues, and on the other, labour relations and living conditions of working people. The social issues that constitute the focus of the institute are: poverty, exploitation, human rights violations, political oppression, war, labour migration, housing and land ownership.

The IISH actively seeks out and acquires material that fits its collection profile in Russia, South- and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia, Africa, Latin-America and the Netherlands. It also actively collects material from international organizations without a clear regional base. As of 2010, the IISH no longer actively acquires material from the countries of Western Europe, North America, East Asia, Australia/New Zealand and Oceania, but it is ready to accept material originating in these regions that is offered if it fits the collection profile and if there is no local alternative.

The collection profile is the primary criterion for decisions on the acquisition or rejection of material, but the IISH recognizes that it has a duty to rescue material of great historical significance if it is in immediate danger of destruction, even if the material does not fit the profile. In these cases the acquisition on principle has a temporary character.


The library of International Institute of Social History

IISH Research focuses on the transnational and transcontinental study of labour, labour relations and workers' social movements in the broadest sense of the word. Its Global Labour History Programme concerns the history of all those people who through their work have built our modern world - not only wage labourers, but also chattel slaves, sharecroppers, housewives, the self-employed, and many other groups. It focuses on the labour relations of these people, as individuals but also as members of households, networks and other contexts. Global Labour History covers the last five centuries and, in principle, all continents. It compares developments in several parts of the world and attempts to reveal intercontinental connections and interactions.


The institute holds over 3,000 archives, more than 1,000,000 printed volumes, and an equivalent number of audio-visual items, in total ca. 50 kilometer. The largest part of the collections is accessible without any restrictions. All the collections can be accessed through the IISH catalogue at Search.


The CLIO-Infra project will create a set of interconnected historical databases on worldwide social, economic and institutional indicators over the last five centuries, with special focus on the last 200 years. These indicators will enable historians to study the long term development of global inequality. The project is led by Jan Luiten van Zanden, who has formulated IISH's research programme on global economic history.

HiTiME stands for Historical Timeline Mining and Extraction. HiTiME aims at the development of a text analysis system for the recognition and extraction of historical events and facts from a variety of primary and secondary historical sources, such as biographies, brochures and letters.

Heritage of the People's Europe IISH will make its digital collections available in the framework of the EU project: Heritage of the People's Europe (HOPE). The HOPE project brings together a partnership of eleven European social history institutions with the aim to improve access to their highly significant but scattered.

LINKS stands for LINKing System for historical family reconstruction and is granted by the NWO programme Continuous Access to Cultural Heritage (CATCH). LINKS aims at reconstructing all nineteenth and early twentieth century families in the Netherlands. This reconstruction will be based on the data of the GENLIAS project, which is a digitized index of all civil certificates from this period.

Memory of the IISH project aims to capture the knowledge about the IISH collections, starting with the knowledge of staff members who will leave the institute in the years to come. It's about knowledge which is not or will not be recorded in the existing library or archive systems.

Russia: Archives and Restitution During the Second World War archives of real and imagined enemies of nazism were stolen by the Germans occupiers of the Netherlands. After the German capitulation in 1945, special Red Army units found them in the then Soviet zone of Europe.

The 'Centrale' Digitization Project On 1 March 2012, a four-year project started to digitize some of the IISH's most famous collections, such as:the historical archives of the German social-democratic movement, including the papers of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, August Bebel, Eduard Bernstein, and Wilhelm Liebknechtpapers.

Region Desks[edit]

The IISH's region desks (Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East, Russia) reflect the traditional aims and objectives of the Institute: to safeguard materials from opposition and other social movements, thereby ensuring that they are not destroyed or lost. In 1935, the IISH was founded with this specific mission in mind. The classical (and largest) collections of the IISH concerns the European social history. Today, there is a pressing need to preserve and maintain documents on social history outside of Europe. Local archives in the region are not always equipped to do so or there may be concerns that more controversial collections will not find a safe depository at a local level. The IISH prides itself as being a forerunner in organizing the collection of these important materials.


The IISG currently publishes, among others, the journals International Review of Social History (in co-operation with Cambridge University Press), Social'naja istorija. Ezhegodnik, Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis and Jaarboek voor Vrouwengeschiedenis.


The IISG organises the biennial European Social History Conference.

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External links[edit]

This article incorporates information from this version of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.