On the emergence of the Max Weber Stiftung - Foundation German Humanities Institutes Abroad

The historical background of the Max Weber Foundation is a history of its institutes abroad, which began with the foundation of the German Historical Institute in Rome in the year 1888 and continued dynamically after the Second World War and also after the turning point brought about by the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989/90 when further institutes were founded in Paris (1958), London (1976) and Washington (1987), Tokyo (1988) and Warsaw (1993).

The Academic Council evaluated the institutes abroad in the years 1996 to 1999 and suggested to the federal government that there should be an “amalgamation in a joint institutional union in the interest of utilising synergetic effects and accordingly strengthening Germany’s academic presence abroad”. The recommendation and the possibilities of its implementation were discussed in depth among experts and interested members of the public.


  • The German parliament decides to found the German Humanities Institutes Abroad (Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland - DGIA) public-law foundation. Its purpose is to promote research focussing on the areas of history, culture, economics and social sciences in selected countries and to promote mutual understanding between Germany and these countries. For this purpose the foundation maintains "German research institutes and promotes preparatory or accompanying activities, particularly projects" in these countires. Grants from the federal budget are provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung - BMBF).
    The two ministerial directors of the BMBF, Karsten Brenner and Uwe Bake, serve as chairpersons of the Board of Trustees up to the point of the legally required election of an academic for this position.
    A Central Office is set up at the seat of the foundation in Bonn.


  • The Cologne historian Wolfgang Schieder is the first elected chairman of the Board of Trustees.
    The Orient-Institute Beirut becomes part of the foundation, as already provided for in the foundation law.


  • At the suggestion of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach foundation and the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius and with their funding, the foundation sets up the German Historical Institute in Moscow.


  • The German Forum for Art History in Paris, funded up to that point as a project run by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is incorporated into the foundation.


  • The Academic Council delivers an opinion on the further development of the foundation and the financing of the German Historical Institute in Moscow. The recommendations also refer to the pursued independence of the department of the Orient-Institute Beirut in Istanbul. Moreover, the Academic Council delivers an opinion on the foundation's governance structures and recommends the introduction of external evaluations.


  • Following the recommendation of the Academic Council, the German Historical Institute Moscow is incorporated into the institutional financing, the Orient-Institute Istanbul, up to then a department in the Orient-Institute Beirut, becomes an independent institute. This means that the foundation now maintains ten independent research institutes.
    The Board of Trustees elects the Mainz historian Heinz Duchhardt as its chairman (President since 2012).


  • The name of the sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) is added to the foundation's name.

    The international conference "Max Weber in the World - Reception and Impact", which the Foundation organised in 2012 to mark its renaming, presented and scientifically examined the worldwide dissemination and reception of his writings to this day.  It showed the extent to which his theses and analyses are still considered topical by politics, economics and society. In addition, it made clear which scientific stimuli Max Weber experienced during his numerous stays abroad. In 1919, he himself wrote: „Um zu verstehen, worin da die Besonderheit unserer deutschen Verhältnisse besteht, ist es zweckmäßig, vergleichend zu verfahren und sich zu vergegenwärtigen, wie es im Auslande […] aussieht […].“ (Wissenschaft als Beruf, 1917/19, MWG I/17, S. 71)


  • The foundation's 1st Transnational Research Group (TRG) is set up by the German Historical Institute London in New Delhi/India. The funding format is limited to five years. The group conducts research on the theme of "Poverty Reduction and Policy for the Poor between the State and Private Actors: Education Policy in India since the Nineteenth Century". The Foundation enters into a co-operation with the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin as part of a joint project funded by the BMBF.


  • The Board of Trustees elects the Munich sinologist Hans van Ess as President of the Max Weber Foundation.


  • The Board of Trustees decides to fund branch offices in New Delhi/India, Beijing/China and a branch office of the German Historical Institute in Washington on the US west coast (Berkeley) for a period limited to four years. It reserves the right to look into the possibility of permanent funding after that.


  • The 2nd Transnational Research Group of the Max Weber Foundation is set up by the German Historical Institute Paris on the subject of "The Bureaucratisation of African Societies" in Dakar/Senegal.
    The German Historical Institute Warsaw opens a new Branch Office in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.


  • The German Historical Institute Warsaw opens another Branch Office in the Czech capital Prague.


  • The three-year large-scale project "Knowledge Unbound: Internationalisation, Networking, Innovation in and by the Max Weber Stiftung" begins its work.


  • The Board of Trustees adopts the MWS Strategy 2030.


  • The India Branch Office in New Delhi/India is made permanent as the Max Weber Forum for South Asian Studies Delhi and is thus the eleventh institute of the MWS.
    The DHI Washington will continue to receive permanent funding for its Pacific Regional Office in Berkeley.


  • Berlin historian Ute Frevert is appointed President of the Max Weber Foundation. She takes office on 1 March 2023, making her the first woman to head the MWS.


  • On 17 November 2023, the Board of Trustees decides to establish the decentralised Max Weber Network Eastern Europe with a first location in Tbilisi/Georgia.