East-West Dialogues: Economic Historians, the Cold War and Détente

The Internationale of Historians
By Maxine Berg

In the late 1950s a new international historical association was conceived, the International Economic History Association. From 1960 it organized a succession of major congresses bringing together historians from across Europe, the Soviet Union and North America, and smaller numbers from other countries. The association exists today; its congresses are now titled ‘World Congresses’, and its participation is very different, with many fewer from the former Eastern Europe. The inception and earlier years of the association lay in responses to the Second World War and the Cold War. This article, using a transnational historical methodology, investigates the early European collaborations, especially the British and French contributions, the role of American philanthropic foundations and American economic historians, and the Soviet and East European experience. It relates how the organization navigated a number of Cold War crises, and how personal and intellectual exchanges helped to unlock old barriers. The commitment among a group of economic historians to cross political divides reveals to us the very real political spaces they occupied as scholars and intellectuals.

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