The Faculty of History of the University of Warsaw has existed since the beginning of the 19th century. In its long history it had different names. The University was founded as a General School (Studium Generale, the term being synonymous with the definition of university in the Middle Ages). In the founding act of November 19, 1816, the name "Royal University of Warsaw" was adopted. The University comprised 5 faculties. Historical sciences centered around the Philosophy Faculty, which was in line with European practice then.

After the fall of the November Uprising in 1830 the General School (Szkoła Główna) took over the functions of the University. The School had the character of a regular university and included four large units, among them the Faculty of Philology and History. On the opening day of re-born University, November 25, 1862 Professor’s Joseph Casimir Plebański’s inaugural lecture had a significant title: "The task and the benefits of learning history." The historical section of the Faculty taught the history of the ancient Middle East and of the Republic of Rome, of Greece, of Islam, the Middle Ages and the history of partitions of Poland. Those subjects were taught by professors Plebański, Pawiński and Kowalewski (Dean of the Faculty). The Russian scholar Adrian Kopyłow was responsible for the Chair of the History of Russia in those days. Karol Estreicher – an eminent researcher of manuscripts and old prints received his doctorate in 1867. Karol Estreicher’s lectures (1865-68), likewise those given earlier by Feliks Bentkowski (1817-31), and Joachim Lelewel (1820-1821), provided a basis for university education related to the book and the library science.

The January Insurrection in 1863 and the Russian repression resulted in closing down the General School with the Faculty of Philology and History which survived only until 1869.

In the following years up to 1915 there existed the Imperial University of Warsaw, it included the Faculty of History and Philology with 9 chairs. Polish professors, however, represented only 10% of the entire staff of the Faculty. All the professors of this Faculty constituted 28% of the entire University staff. The Faculty of History buildings housed in those days various academic institutions in laboratories. In the seat of the Institute of Archaeology the phenomenon of chronomatography was discovered. A plaque has been placed on the building to commemorate the event. In 1915 the Imperial University of Warsaw was moved to Rostov-on-Don in the Russian territory, where it still exists.

The Polish University in Warsaw with the Faculty of Philosophy was recreated in October 1915, in the German-occupied part of the Polish Kingdom. The Faculty of Philosophy carried 9 seminars, including history, ancient history, and modern Polish history. In the academic year 1917/18 an art history seminar was initiated. The Faculty employed 33 lecturers. Students of the department actively participated in the struggle for independence, took part in disarming Germans in November 1918 and voluntarily joined the emerging Polish army.

In the first year of the Polish independent state, i.e. 1918, the Faculty of History and Philology had already 40 lecturers. The first postdoctoral qualification procedure (habilitation) in the Faculty took place in 1920. At the beginning of the academic year 1926/27 the Faculty of Philosophy was replaced by two new faculties: of Humanities and of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. Thanks to professor Marceli Handelsman the Institute of History was founded in 1930 as a distinct section of the Faculty of Humanities. Thanks to professor Zajączkowski’s efforts the Institute of Oriental Studies appeared in 1932. Both institutes were research and teaching university units, which was quite unique among contemporary European universities. Among the Faculty graduates there were more women than men in that period! Professors of the Faculty of Humanities were the luminaries of Polish and world science. Research on the history of the Middle Ages, Polish history and universal history developed significantly. There was a considerable progress in archaeology and ancient history. Professor Kazimierz Michałowski became chairman of classical archaeology in 1933. In 1936-39 he led the Polish-French excavations in Egypt. Among the deans of the Faculty of History were prominent representatives of historical sciences, such as Marceli Handelsman, Oskar Halecki and Włodzimierz Antoniewicz.

During the German occupation 1939-45 the Faculty, like all Polish universities, was closed by the occupation authorities. The Faculty, however, persisted in the form of secret teaching. The underground Faculty of Humanities had in its organizational structure a historical section and a separate study of art history. Lectures in various disciplines of historical knowledge, like archaeology and prehistory, were given. Classes were held in private homes, in schools and on religious premises. Participation in those activities threatened both the teachers and students with death to. Many of them were arrested and killed. Several professors and students actively participated in armed combats with the enemy. It is not possible to mention all their names – the interested reader is referred to publications on the history of the Warsaw University.

The rebirth of the University of Warsaw and the Faculty of Humanities took place in 1945. In February 1951 the Faculty of History was separated from the Faculty of Humanities. After several structural changes taken in 1970’s, like establishing the Institute of Archaeology, the chair of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology and the chair of the Book Studies (nowadays both are Institutes), the Faculty of History took its current form. We currently employ 270 full time faculty, including 43 full professors, 68 professors of the University of Warsaw, 136 doctors and 19 MA holders and we have the right to conduct independently doctoral and postdoctoral studies.


Warsaw, September 2009


This Brief outline of the history of the Faculty written by Adam Łukaszewicz and Tadeusz Cegielski does not aspire to be an exhaustive compendium of knowledge about its past. We hope to improve it in time, especially we intend to add the postwar history of the Faculty.


The text is based on the following publications:

1. Historia Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego 1807 – 1915 (History of the University of Warsaw, 1807-1915), edited by Stefan Kieniewicz, Warszawa 1981.

2. Historia Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego (History of the University of Warsaw, 1915-1939), edited by Andrzej Garlicki, Warszawa 1982.

3. Jerzy Miziołek, Uniwersytet Warszawski. Historia i tradycja (The University of Warsaw. The history and tradition), Warszawa 2005.

4. Tradycje i współczesność. Księga pamiątkowa Instytutu Historycznego Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego 1930 – 2005 (Tradition and contemporary. The Memorial Book of the Historical Institute of University of Warsaw,1930-2005Warszawa 2005.

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