Institute wins historic fight

March 28, 1997

The future of the fledgling British Centre for Historical Research in Germany has been secured following a successful campaign to save the Max Planck Institute for History in Gottingen.

The unique centre, validated by the University of Wales at Bangor, is to form part of an international historical research community in Gottingen where the Mission Historique Francaise en Allemagne, funded by the French foreign ministry, is also based. But it was almost nipped in the bud at the end of last year when the Max Planck Society, the German government's main research arm, announced plans to close four of its 73 institutes, including the Gottingen institute, and to channel funds into new research institutes in eastern Germany.

After an international campaign by historians and politicians, including Rita Sussmuth, president of the Bundestag, the Max Planck Society has decided to save its historical research in Gottingen.

Joseph Canning, director designate of the British centre, said: "This now gives us the security to go ahead. It gives us a firm basis to develop our project."

No other university or research institute in Germany could offer the British centre the same breadth of expertise across the whole spectrum of medieval, early modern and modern history as the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen with its already established international research community, Dr Canning said. The centre will be unique in providing a permanent presence of British historians in Germany working on a range of German and European historical research.

As well as a director, it will employ research fellows on long-term projects and will later also offer MAs and PhDs. It is to open its offices officially next month and will host its next conference in Easter 1998.

The Max Planck Society has now decided to close down only two of its research institutions; the Institute for Biology in Tubingen and the Institute for Behavioural Psychology in Seewiesen, Bavaria. Work at the Institute for Aerodynamics in Katlenburg-Lindau will be slimmed down. The closures will lead to 200 job cuts and another 300 jobs are also to be lost at remaining institutes, said society president Hubert Markl.

But two new research institutes are to be set up: one for molecular and cellular biology and genetics and another for evolutionary anthropology. Rita Sussmuth said: "I am pleased this solution will secure the continued existence of one of the most renowned historical institutes in Germany. Its closure would have caused irreparable damage to humanities research."

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