Historical Initiatives

Throughout its history, ACLS has taken a lead on a number of initiatives central to the advancement of humanistic inquiry, in the United States and around the world. A few of ACLS's major programs of past years are described below.


The ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure in the Humanities and Social Sciences released a final report, Our Cultural Commonwealth, in fall 2006 on its investigation into technology and humanistic research, with a call on the need to develop the cyberinfrastruture necessary for scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.

In 1963, ACLS joined with the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States and the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa to establish the National Commission on the Humanities. The commission was asked to conduct a study of the state of the humanities in America and report its findings to the sponsors. The 1964 Report of the Commission on the Humanities recommended "the establishment by the President and the Congress of the United States of a National Humanities Foundation," a recommendation adopted in 1965 when President Johnson signed the legislation creating the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

International Projects

With funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, between 1999 and 2010, the ACLS Humanities Program in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine supported humanities scholars doing exemplary work in the former Soviet Union during a time of crisis, so as to assure continued future leadership in the humanities. In 2007, the International Association for the Humanities was founded as an independent association of humanities scholars primarily in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine it continues to offer short-term grants. 

In the years 1987-1989, the ACLS organized, with major support from the Ford Foundation, a project on comparative constitutionalism. The project convened six international institutes—in Punta del Este, Uruguay; Chiangmai, Thailand; Harare, Zimbabwe, Africa; Berlin, Germany; Pecs, Hungary; and Princeton, New Jersey—which discussed constitutionalism across academic and professional disciplines, cultures, regimes and even time. Essays from each institute were published in Constitutionalism, Democracy, and the Transformation of the Modern World (Oxford UP, 1993). A final report was published as ACLS Occasional Paper No. 13

A subsequent project on East European constitutionalism, supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, investigated ways to help promote the spirit and culture of constitutionalism in Poland, Hungary, The Czech Republic, and Slovakia. A final report was published as ACLS Occasional Paper No. 51.

The Social Science Translation Project (SSTP) brought together a group of translators, editors, and social scientists to discuss problems arising from the translation of a variety of texts that employ social-scientific concepts. It produced Guidelines for the Translation of Social Science Texts (ACLS, 2006) in English and seven other languages. 

As part of the ACLS/SSRC International Program, ACLS organized and administered a multi-disciplinary, cross-regional Collaborative Research Network on "Official and Vernacular Identifications in the Making of the Modern World." The network consisted of scholars in Russia, Thailand, China, France and the French Atlantic World, and the United States, who pursued their own research agendas within a comparative analytical framework.

Working Groups

The Luce Fund for Asian Studies Capstone Conference (LFAS), organized by ACLS with a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, was held in Princeton, N.J. on October 12 –14, 2007. The conference was convened to evaluate the LFAS program and begin a conversation on Asian studies in undergraduate education.

The ACLS Teagle Working Group in Liberal Education convened three times in 18 months, ultimately producing a white paper, Student Learning and Faculty Research: Connecting Teaching and Scholarship (ACLS, 2007), intended to provide new empirical data and grounding for institutional practices regarding the relationship between teaching and scholarship.