London's Institute of Historical Research is set to embark on a fundraising drive under its new director, writes Huw Richards.
David Cannadine, who succeeded Patrick O'Brien at the start of the month, signalled his intention of raising the institute's income and profile at a University of London reception held last week to mark his arrival.
Describing the IHR as "the crossroads, the meeting place, for professional historians not just from Britain, but from around the globe", he said that "there is a downside to the many good things that go on at the institute" and that these could be blamed on inadequate resources.
Professor Cannadine, who has returned to the United Kingdom after ten years at Columbia University, New York, said: "We have to raise an endowment because there is no hope of increased government funding. There's no point in regretting this - that's the way the world is at the moment."
He said that after only days in the job he was not going to set a target for the endowment or offer specific plans. But in stating general priorities he pointed to the importance of the IHR's position within London's School of Advanced Studies, the umbrella organisation for its specialist institutes.
"The school could be a centre for the study of the humanities on a par with the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington," he said.
Professor Cannadine hopes, in particular, to give the IHR "a resident, creative intellectual life, a permanent community of active, engaged historians - visitors from overseas, long-term junior research fellows, senior research fellows - which would energise and invigorate the place."
The institute already has research fellows - there were 13 in 1996-97. "We want to be able to offer them an office, a desk and a phone," said Professor Cannadine. "At the moment we can't give them much more than the use of the library and a cup of tea."
Other likely priorities are the library, which he says is "the best working library for historians anywhere in Britain" but is in "cramped, inadequate and dispiriting surroundings that are in urgent need of modernisation, refurbishment and extension" and staff accommodation.
"Some people work in offices so overcrowded that we must be in breach of the Factory Acts passed in the 1840s," he said.