International Commission for a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind

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Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

International Commission for a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind

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Dates of existence



In 1946 those attending the meeting of the first Preparatory Commission of UNESCO agreed that it was part of fundamental mission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to lay the foundations for a collective memory of humanity and of all its parts, spread all over the world and expressing themselves in every civilization. From December 12 to 16 1949 a Committee of Experts prepared a plan of the Scientific and Cultural History of Mankind. The International Scientific Commission with the apparently gigantic task of drafting a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind came into being four years later, when the 5th General Conference (Florence, Italy, June 1952) decided to undertake the publication of the history. Publication of the six volumes began in 1963, marking the successful conclusion of an international endeavour without parallel, but not without risks. Success with general public was immediate and lasting, notwithstanding the reservations expressed by the critics, who often found certain choices disconcerting but were not consistent in the choices and interpretations they proposed as alternatives. UNESCO published a completely revised edition in the 1980s and a third edition in 2009.


Legal status

Scientific Commission assigned by UNESCO.

Functions, occupations and activities

Main taks of the Scientific Commission and the Editorial Committee was the drafting a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind.
The work which started in 1952 reached completion in 1968 with the publication in English, French, Greek, Serbo-Croat, Slovene and Spanish of the six-volume History. At the beginning of the work, the Commission launched a new quarterly “Journal of World History” whose role was to provide the drafters with background and reference material and to give scholars everywhere a special forum for comparison and discussion of their ideas.

Mandates/sources of authority

The 5th General Conference, taking place in May/June 1950 in Florence, authorizes the Director-General “to proceed immediately with the project for a Scientific and Cultural History of Mankind by appointing […] an international commission to undertake on behalf of UNESCO full responsibility for the preparation and execution of the work.” (5 C/Res. 4.123).

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General context

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Related entity

Huxley, Julian

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created by Julia Pohle, June 2009.




Introduction to inventory of archives 1944-1969 (PRS.79/WS/6), AG 8/4 SCHM.

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