"By the term Union the gave expression to the feelings of fraternity, friendship, confidence, equality and liberty by which they were inspired and which continue to be the inspiration of the federation."
Sir Eric Turner
The Union Académique Internationale (UAI) was founded in 1919 at the initiative of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. The statutes of the UAI were developed and adopted at two meetings held in Paris in May and October 1919. During the assemblies, representatives of National Academies from eleven countries have marked their accession (Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Russia, the United States) and National Academies of three other countries had given their agreement without being represented (Spain, Norway and Romania). The Union Académique Internationale currently has Academies members in 61 countries.
The Union Académique Internationale is a federation of Academies, or groups of Academies having a national character, and national scientific institutions comparable with them. Its purpose is to encourage cooperation in the advancement of studies through collaborative research and joint publications in those branches of humanities and social sciences promoted by the Academies and Institution represented in the UAI: philology, archaeology, history, moral and political sciences.
First Assembly in Brussels
The first general assembly was held in Brussels from 26 to 28 May 1920 and Henri Pirenne was elected as first president. The administrative seat of the Union was established in the Palace of Academies in Brussels. The Académie royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique is responsible for the secratariat of the UAI. Its Permanent Secretary is the Secretary General of the UAI. During this first session, five projects were submitted, three were selected: the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, proposed by Edmond Pottier, the Manuscrits alchimiques, whose promoter was Joseph Bidez, and the publication of the Works of Grotius. The Union Académique Internatinale has now 76 projects, completed or in progress, called “entreprises”.
Opening to the world
Over the years, the UAI's projects have increasingly focused not only to the civilizations of the world but also on scholarly activity in broader areas. The scientific activity of the UAI has never been restricted to the study of the European culture and, over the years, the scientific horizon of its projects has considerably expanded. It currently includes, in addition to the cultures of Ancient Near East and Ancient America, some projects involving Iran, India, China, Central Asia, Black Africa and the Pacific region. The Union Académique Internationale meets it a very important and noble function: to study, preserve and make accessible all value elements of culture that humanity has created so far. This task is accomplished in an infinite field of research remains, however, to conquer.
The UAI could not carry on its projects without the cooperation of its members. Thus, the various forms and possibilities of cooperation are important for its development. An academy or one of its members can cooperate with the UAI's activities in managing a project via its research centres, and may assume all or part of the financial aspects of a project or serve as an intermediary between a project and researchers from its country.
In 1947 the International Academic Union begins to bind with a series of external organizations. Thus, international cooperation exists not only between member academies within the UAI, but also between the UAI itself and international organizations such UNESCO, ICPHS (International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies), and other international interdisciplinary associations. The UAI also assisted in the creation of ICPHS in 1949. Some new projects were adopted at the initiative of ICPHS and UNESCO, which allocate theirs some grants. This wish of bring together scientists from many countries to collaborate on large scale projects do not remain unnoticed. In 1964, the UAI receives the Erasmus Prize, for having succeeded in establishing international collaboration in projects too vast for any individual Academy. The Union is also a member of the ISSC (International Social Science Council), a body close to UNESCO, since 2002. UAI have received some support from the ESF (European Science Foundation) in Strasbourg, from which she follows the activities since many years with observer status.
The Union enables to create an international collaboration between its members Academies, offering to them a chance to meet and work together to projects of medium and long term and enabling them to participating to the great national and international movement of scientific research.
* This is an update from Mr. J. Harmatta's text, published in December 1987 (M. J. Harmatta, « Introduction » in M. J. Harmatta & S.A. Wurm, Manuel de l’UAI, Bruxelles: Secrétariat administratif de l’UAI, Palais des Académies, 1987, pp. 6-9)