Mission & History

Founded in 1948 with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the European Institute at Columbia University is the oldest academic institution in the United States dedicated to the study of Europe. In its early years the Institute trained specialists for the Marshall Plan, contributed to U.S. security policy in the Cold War, and supported the development of the European Community. The Institute focused increasingly on Western Europe, while its partner in Russian studies, now called the Harriman Institute, supported research on the Soviet Bloc.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Institute turned its attention again to Europe as a whole. The end of the East-West divide meant new challenges and the return of old ones. Would Europe’s capitalist, industrialized core dominate its peripheries, as the central powers had before World War I? Could the European Union offer an alternative for unifying the continent? What was the future of the transatlantic relationship?

The European Institute now dedicates itself to the future of European studies. This paradigm shift recognizes that the old transatlantic relationship is over and that global changes have reconfigured Europe’s relationship with other areas of the world. If we are to understand our commonalities, yet also our differences, we must work with fresh assumptions and strong local connections. Going forward, the Institute counts among its resources a faculty with deep understanding of the region, a new capacity to be truly on the ground in Europe through Columbia’s centers in Paris and Istanbul, partnerships with institutions in Eastern and Western Europe, and energized students ready to look at the world in a new light.

In New York, the Institute brings together faculty, students, and international visitors in an integrated program of teaching and research. We present several dozen lectures, conferences, and workshops every year, on topics from European integration to culture and foreign relations. In Europe, we partner with institutions including the London School of Economics, Sciences Po in Paris, the EU’s European University Institute, and Central European University in Budapest to develop new programs on the future of Europe and deepen transatlantic ties. The Institute is guided by a Faculty Advisory Committee of prominent scholars from Columbia and Barnard College, and an Advisory Board with backgrounds in foreign policy, economics and politics, and European art and culture.