The Institute of Contemporary History (IHC) develops research in History, with particular attention to the modern and contemporary periods, in dialogue with Social Sciences, Humanities, Arts, and other scientific areas. The IHC also aims to promote the advanced training of researchers, fostering a dynamic, multicultural, multidisciplinary, and intellectually stimulating environment. The IHC maintains privileged relations with museums, archives and schools, at local, regional, national or international level, also carrying out university extension actions and providing services to entities outside the university.
The advanced training of future historians and social scientists is a central focus of the IHC’s mission, and to this end it has established an Advanced Studies Platform. Through this platform, the IHC provides support to all doctoral candidates via mentoring, financial resources, the organisation of discussion seminars and opportunities to organise events. It promotes interdisciplinary, critical and plural approaches, encouraging students to apply diverse and innovative methodologies (such as those of the Digital Humanities), as well as the internationalisation of their work (e.g. via research scholarships that include a period abroad). The aim is to empower new generations of professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to make a significant contribution to their research areas.
In our commitment to equity, we seek to foster a community where mutual support and respect are the norm, ensuring a safe and inclusive space for all people so that they can fulfil themselves academically and professionally. To this end, our operating rules aim to be clear and democratic. We have also established the figure of the Researcher Ombudsman, who is independent from the IHC bodies and its management institutions, and available to support researchers in any internal dispute situations.
The IHC is also committed to national and international policies for the promotion of open science, making every effort to ensure that the work and results obtained by the research team are accessible to the entire academic and non-academic community. In the same vein, it has a strong commitment to science communication and the promotion of historical culture, hosting a History in the Public Sphere programme that includes public lectures, projects, exhibitions and partnerships with schools, municipalities, cultural facilities, and various media. The IHC wants to make historical knowledge accessible and relevant, promoting a better understanding of the past and its influence on contemporary times.
Therefore, through the promotion of excellent research, open science, equity, and an open relationship with society, the IHC strives to be a vibrant hub of intellectual enquiry, inspiring critical and plural knowledge about historical processes and contributing to a better, more curious and inclusive society.
The IHC yesterday and today
Establishing a centre dedicated to modern and contemporary history in the early 1990s was a daring and visionary initiative, led by two professors from NOVA FCSH: Fernando Rosas and Luís Espinha da Silveira. Until recently, the study of contemporaneity (and especially of the twentieth century) was still viewed with some suspicion – something that the more sceptical referred to as “journalism with footnotes.”
However, on the international scene, these suspicions were long over past. The procedures and tools of analysis of the historical method were systematically used to clarify, as rigorously as possible, the changes and continuities of the modern and contemporary periods. Furthermore, the public’s appetite for a reading of the recent past that transcended the merely memorialistic record was notorious.
In the Portuguese context, the almost five decades of dictatorship have further increased this curiosity. The research projects and the master’s and doctoral theses developed within the framework of NOVA FCSH and the IHC have made a decisive contribution to the construction of the “Estado Novo” as a field of research unprecedented in Portuguese historiography.
One of the hallmarks of the IHC has always been to function as a space for intergenerational collaboration. Originally made up of a group of professors from the History Department of NOVA FCSH (which included, besides Fernando Rosas and Luís Espinha da Silveira, names such as AH de Oliveira Marques, António Pedro Vicente, António Reis, José Medeiros Ferreira, and Maria Cândida Proença), the IHC quickly began to aggregate a significant group of young researchers whose pioneering work was recognised by several prizes and other distinctions. Many of them later became historians with established credits and authors of reference works, both at the national and international levels.
In addition to its commitment to research and advanced training, the IHC has never neglected its connection to the world outside academia. Over the years, it has played an active role in intervening in civic and cultural debates, and in preserving the collective memory. Maria Fernanda Rollo, President of the IHC between 2012 and 2015, took a leading role in the scientific programme of the Centenary of the First Republic and was, before assuming governmental functions, in December 2015, one of the promoters of several initiatives around the centenary of the Great War, in addition to other projects that marked our relationship with civil society, public institutions, and private companies. The first cultural space in Lisbon dedicated to the memory of political repression under the Estado Novo – the Aljube Museum – counted on the scientific advice of several members of the IHC and was directed by Luís Farinha, also a long-time researcher of the IHC.
From a small centre sponsored by NOVA FCSH professors, the IHC has experienced a very remarkable expansion in the last decade, also incorporating researchers and professors from other universities. It is worth noting the partnership that made possible the merge, in 2013-14, of the Centre for Studies of History and Philosophy of Science of the University of Évora in our research structure.
The current configuration of the IHC – based on research groups and thematic lines – results from the adjustment to the requirements of the Foundation fos Scinece and Technology (the main, but not exclusive, funding entity) and the acquired meaning of new research agendas. In addition to a dedicated team of integrated researchers, the IHC also counts on a large network of associates and collaborators, as well as and a well-trained management team.
In the last decade, the IHC has undergone important transformations, largely as a result of the fact that it has significantly increased its number of researchers exclusively dedicated to research, at the same time that the opportunities for entering the teaching career have been reduced. In this context, the IHC decided to apply for the title of Associate Laboratory in the competition promoted by FCT in 2021. With the success of the application promoted by us, the Associate Laboratory IN2PAST was created, the first and only associated laboratory in the area of Humanities and also the only one that integrates a unit in the area of History.
The team of PhD researchers integrated in the IHC team at FCT and IN2PAST is currently composed of around one hundred researchers, about half of which are contracted PhD researchers and half are professors who teach in Higher Education. The IHC also brings together around 30 PhD researchers who work outside the academic environment and who, in addition to the research they carry on their off-time, make possible the Programme History in the Public Sphere, which also enhances the action of IN2PAST in the field of public policy.
List of Presidents of the Board of Directors:
Feb 29, 2024
From Famalicão to the World: 25 April 1974 – The Meaning of a Historic Date in Vila Nova de Famalicão
Feb 2, 2024
The IHC could not miss the call
Jan 25, 2024
They were awarded the prize in the Lusophone Studies and Research Category.