Perspectives on Anarchist Theory

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Vol. 2 - No. 2
Fall, 1998

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Letter to Perspectives

Dear Editors,

More or less by chance I found Jerry Kaplan’s article, "Preserving Our Past: The Anarchist Collections," in the Spring 1997 issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory. It is a thoughtful piece, but I would like to comment on a specific point. Jerry notes that the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam is "connected to [...] the state". He has a point: the IISH is chiefly funded through the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Yet there is an important proviso to be made.

IISH was created in 1935 as a private foundation. In 1979 this foundation, which continues to exist, struck an agreement with the Academy in order to set the Institute on more sound footing. However, it retains full responsibility for the acquisition and maintenance of, as well as access to, all archives and other documents in the care of IISH. Indeed the foundation never considered relinquishing control over the Institute’s anarchist collections (and, for that matter, the many sensitive materials it often acquires) to any state-related institution. In this field, IISH is entirely independent and not even bound by Dutch archival legislation. It is an unusual legal construction, but so far it has worked well.

The Institute’s collections are listed in its online catalog and, separately, on its Web site at

All the best,
Jaap Kloosterman

International Institute of Social History
Cruquiusweg 31,
1019 AT Amsterdam,
The Netherlands