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'Our Century': thinking back, looking forward

2021 is the centenary of the Institute of Historical Research, which opened on 8 July 1921. For a century, the IHR has been thinking back and looking forward.

To mark our centenary, in July 2021 we launch 'Our Century', a 12-month festival of public activities exploring history’s past, present and future. #OurCentury

Introducing 'Our Century'

2021 marks the centenary of the Institute of Historical Research. For 100 years the Institute of Historical Research has been thinking back and looking forward. In our centenary year, the IHR presents ‘Our Century’ – an exploration, celebration and reappraisal of history’s past, present and future.   

Over 12 months (July 2021-June 2022) we’ll celebrate the discipline and practice of history in its many forms and wherever it’s found:  promoting  the value and power of historical thinking; celebrating diverse histories from our previous century; and looking ahead to history’s future in the coming century.   

What's coming up

  • Thursday 8 July 2021: Join IHR online to mark the Institute’s Global Birthday Event.
  • From September 2021 to June 2022: Look out for the series of events organised through our National Centenary Events, which aim to celebrate the discipline and practice of history in its many forms: promoting the value and power of historical thinking, celebrating diverse histories from our previous century, and looking ahead to history’s future in the coming century.  
  • Centenary partnership events with Swansea University and Queen’s University Belfast, focusing on approaches to public history and ‘troubling anniversaries’ 
  • June 2022: final event, showcasing and celebrating the year’s activities and looking to the future of history.


Centenary aims and ambitions

From July 2021, the Institute of Historical Research celebrates its centenary year with ‘Our Century’, a 12-month exploration and celebration of history’s past, present and future. During ‘Our Century’, please join us to: 

  • Celebrate the discipline and practice of history, in all its forms and wherever it is found, and its contribution to public life in the UK and beyond
  • Build wider awareness of the IHR and its initiatives, and create opportunities to support its future objectives
  • Reflect on the past century and practices of history over the past hundred years, and open a conversation about the future of history over the coming century
  • Think critically about untold, marginalised and invisible histories over the past century
  • Promote more inclusive, diverse and engaged histories and historical practice
  • Involve diverse participants and communities in making history and making history’s future  

The IHR in July 1921: opening ceremony

The opening ceremony for the Institute of Historical Research took place on 8 July 1921. Guest of honour was H.A.L. Fisher, Minister for the Board of Education.

The IHR's location was carefully chosen

The IHR's founders wanted a central London location to allow UK and international visitors easy access to the British Museum (Library) and Public Record Office.

The IHR's premises in 1921

The IHR's first home was a single-storey prefabricated 'hut' on Malet Street, Bloomsbury, close to its present location in Senate House, University of London.

The interior of the IHR, 1921

Detailed plans show the layout of the IHR in 1921. Library rooms were reserved for specific subject areas and seminars took place within library rooms.

Origins of the IHR

A.F. Pollard and others had discussed plans for a centre of 'advanced historical studies' since the early 1900s. The IHR went by several names pre-1921.

The nation's 'history laboratory'

Promotional literature from before and after 1921 stressed the IHR as a place of new and experimental work. The language of science was regularly employed.

Historical thinking in 1921 and 2021

There are many parallels between the work and aims of the IHR in 1921 and 2021, as this recent magazine article makes clear (see page 34).