International Institute of Social History

The International Institute of Social History, founded in 1935, is a major research and documentation centre on international labour history. It holds 2,000 archival collections (8,000 m), about 1m printed volumes and about as many audiovisual items.

It is located at Cruquiusweg 31, NL-1019 AT Amsterdam, tel +31-20-6685866, fax 6654181. Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9:00-17:00, Sat 9:30-13:00.

The online catalogue (Geac Advance) covers library, archival and audiovisual holdings and is accessible via Telnet.

IISH works closely with the Netherlands Economic History Archive, the Netherlands Press Museum and the National Trades Union Museum. It maintains an office in Moscow. The ID-Archiv, a section of IISH collecting German-language documents of new social movements, maintains an office in Berlin.

The International Institute of Social History is host to the following organizations and institutions:

Gosudarstvennaia Obshchestvenno-Politicheskaia Biblioteka (Social-Political State Library) in Moscow, one of the largest labour history collections anywhere.
IALHInet, an international library network on labour history.
ID-Archiv im IISG, a documentation centre for the new social movements in Germany (in German).
International Association of Labour History Institutions, the International of labour history archives, libraries and museums.
Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung (IMES), the foundation that continues the publication of the collected works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (MEGA 2).
LabNet, the European network of labour historians.
Landelijke Stichting Strijdmuziek, the Dutch Foundation for Political Music (in Dutch).
Nederlands Persmuseum (Netherlands Press Museum), on the oldest press in the world.
Nederlandsch Economisch Historisch Archief (Netherlands Economic History Archive), owner of one of the finest collections on international economic and business history.
Section of Business and Labour Archives of the International Council on Archives (under construction).
Stichting Vrouwengeschiedenis van de Vroegmoderne Tijd, the Dutch Foundation for Early Modern Women's History (in Dutch).
Tijdschrift voor Sociale Geschiedenis, the Dutch Journal on Social History (in Dutch, abstracts in English).
(Notes from Luciano Dondero) This is about the Collections holdings at the International Institute of Social History -- they have materials for these categories:

Anarchism - China - Eastern Europe - France - Germany - Great Britain - Indonesia - International Organizations - Latin America - Netherlands - Spain and Italy

Those that may be relevant to our project are indicated here: Eastern Europe
Archives of emigrés


The material in the Eastern European collections at the IISH characteristically comes from emigrés. The revolutionary populists from the 1870s (A. Herzen, P. Lavrov, V. Smirnov, and M. Bakunin) built their modest archives while in exile. The Lavrov-Goc library, which comprises over 10,000 titles (including Marx's works in Russian), was intended as a reading room for emigrés.

The second wave of material, which concerns social democracy, also belonged to emigrés originally. The IISH has small collections of papers from G. Plechanov and N. Potresov and a large quantity from P. Akselrod. Together with V. Lenin, V. Zasulic, and J. Martov, they founded Russian social democracy.

Combined under the Menshevist heading after the Russian revolution, the subdued social-democratic movement comprises material by L.Trotski and the Trotskyite movement from the late 1920s onward. Finally, the Institute continued acquiring emigrant archives after 1945: in addition to Menshevist papers, the papers of local Russian emigrés were obtained from Paris.


20th Century Archives
The May '68 collection marks the present culmination of this revolutionary oscillation that has characterized French history.


Since June 1988, the Institute is home to the ID-Archiv. Established in Frankfurt/Main in 1981, this archive's task is to collect documents and material generated by new social movements in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Today, this is one of the most extensive collections in this field anywhere. The ID-Archiv maintains its own website (this info has already been sent, in German)



The papers of H.J.F.M. Sneevliet (1883-1942) consist mostly of documents about the Indische Sociaal-Democratische Vereeniging [Indies Social-Democratic Association] (1914-18);

International Organizations

A few noteworthy archives exceed this social-democratic scope. For example, the Trotskyite Quatrième Internationale Posadiste -- of which the IISH has acquired the archive -- was a distant offshoot of internationalism within the workers movement after World War II. In addition, the IISH obtained the archive of the International Student Conference (which experienced considerable upheaval during the Cold War) in a truly remarkable manner: in 1969 the Institute rescued the archive from oblivion by assisting with the organization's disbandment.


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Last updated 29 April 2000