History of the Institute of Global History

At the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, there are at present three different departments focused on history. These include the Institute of Czech History, the Institute of Economic and Social History and the Institute of Global History. There are also other departments, that have a close connection to this field, since they focus on the Auxiliary sciences of history, Antiquity, Ancient history and Prehistory, whilst Czech (and Czechoslovak) Egyptology built up a stellar international reputation. This relatively complicated structure is the result of many historical developments influenced by the ever-progressing specialization in research. Before 1918 Prehistory already split from the historical department while in the twenties other parts of history followed (Ancient History). But up until 1939 historians of Global and Czech (Czechoslovak) history worked together. Back then in the Historical seminar, we could find some of the most influential experts like the Czech history professor Josef Pekař or the professor of western European history Josef Šusta. These were accompanied by a plethora of excellent historians (J. Bidlo, J. V. Šimák and others).

Josef Šusta

After the Second World War focus had naturally shifted to Slavic history and professor Karel Stloukal succeeded Josef Šusta in the Historical seminar. After February 1948 he wasn’t immediately deprived of his right to teach, but in 1951 he had to go into retirement. Others shared his fate, such as renowned expert docent Josef Kalista, while other pre-February democratic politicians (docent H. Ripka) had to leave immediately. Marxist historians replaced them in March 1948, for instance, Oldřich Říha from the modern political history department influenced the Institute of Global History up until his death in 1974. The continuity of development was interrupted, and some pedagogues were even arrested (for example Z. Kalista). Study reviews also affected history students and at least 429 of them from all the different fields had to leave the faculty. Significant changes took place in the academic year of 1952/53 when the originally unified Department of History was divided into the Department of Czechoslovak History and Archival Studies, Department of Ethnography and Prehistory, and the Department of General History and History of People’s Democracies, that was headed by O. Říha. This is where Stloukal’s pupil Josef Polišenský shined and in the year 1957 he was already named professor. During the 1960s Prehistory was attached to the Department of General History. After 1968 several outstanding experts (doc. Karel Durman and others) had to leave the Department of General History and Prehistory, a direct predecessor to the Institute of Global History. However, even in the following normalization era, the department boasted some of the world’s most renowned experts, including docent Miroslav Hroch, assistant professors Vladimír Nálevka and Aleš Skřivan and many others. In the 70s leadership of the department was handed to professor Jaroslav Charvát and docent Alena Závadová. After the Velvet Revolution, the historical departments were reorganized. In the academic year of 1990/91, Prehistory separated from the Department of General History and professor Miroslav Hroch became the head of the scaled-down department and was replaced in the following year by docent, later professor Vladimír Nálevka. In the academic year of 1993/94, he also became the director of the newly formed Institute of Global History. From the year 2000 docent František Stellner became the Institute’s director and in the years 2003 – 2017 this position was filled by professor Martin Kovář. The seminars were reorganized during this period, and they were stabilized in their current form. The department is divided into four seminars. Since 2017 prof. Václav Horčička is the Institute’s director.

The Institute of Global History after 1989 and today

The direction of the Institute of Global History, its personnel and professional focalising from 1989 to the present day, took place mainly under the long-term directorial periods of Professor Vladimír Nálevka and Professor Martin Kovář. The indisputable merit of both is the fact that under their leadership the Institute stabilized and a new professional direction of world history was taken up, which even today influences trends of research cultivated in this essential branch of the Faculty of Arts, and can thus rank itself among the many progressive and versatile parts of this Faculty. The basic direction of the Institute is characterised by its division into four seminars, considered to be basic research and pedagogical units. Medieval Studies cultivated by the Medieval History Seminar focuses on three basic areas. The early medieval state and forms of its representation and its material form, religious history and the cultural and civilization aspects of medieval Central and Eastern Europe. The Seminar of Modern History was originally called the Seminar of the History of International Relations and World Politics. Today it specializes especially in socially and politically oriented research of the social transformations of Central and Western Europe and its overseas territories, the history of colonialism and the colonial administration of European powers. The research of the Newest History Seminar centres primarily on the issues of global development after World War II, European integration, the history of the Cold War, but also on the study of the role of traditional elites in the postmodern world, the importance of sport and entertainment in contemporary everyday life, and selected issues from the Latin American world. The General and Comparative History Seminar is also one of the Institute’s first seminars and is the only specialized department in the Czech Republic to apply the comparative method in the study of historical processes and theoretical problems in historical science. Its research focuses on today’s extremely topical problems of collective identities and identifying, perceiving and interpreting otherness, historical memory, social and cultural history of technology and cultural heritage in relation to the development of urban societies in the ages of modernization, modernity and postmodernism. The seminar focuses on the so-called spatial and material advancements in historiography. All seminars take part in the bachelor history programme and have their own specialized masters programmes. In addition, they help proportionally with the bachelor programme History – European studies, which is the exclusive study programme of the Institute of Global History. They also represent the basic educational workplaces for doctoral studies.


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