History Working Group

A Member-organized History Working Group mobilized in response to the executive order of January 27, 2017, which initially banned travel and immigration to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Three History Working Group articles in the spring 2017 issue of the Institute Letter were authored by Fadi Bardawil, Member in the School of Social Science; Thomas Dodman, Member in the School of Historical Studies; Ian Jauslin, Member in the School of Mathematics; Pascal Marichalar, Visitor in the School of Social Science; Klaus Oschema, Gerda Henkel Stiftung Member in the School of Historical Studies; and Peter Redfield, Member in the School of Social Science. An exhibit was also curated by the History Working Group as a companion to the newsletter articles. These materials appear below.

The Institute for Advanced Study came into being at the most inauspicious of times. Founded in the early years of the Great Depression, it took shape during the buildup to the Second World War and under the growing shadow of authoritarian regimes. Its first Director Abraham Flexner published his manifesto on the “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge” in October 1939, barely a month after the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. Surely this was a daunting moment to defend “the fearless and irresponsible thinker” and advocate for the free expression of knowledge and curiosity. 

In 1930, the Institute was created as an academic retreat for the pursuit of daring research, unfettered by material constraints. From the beginning, political turmoil around the world interfered with this dream. This exhibit traces key moments in this history, focusing on questions of displacement and academic freedom in Europe, the United States, and Latin America from the 1930s to the 1970s.