History of ISA

The data on individual presidents

By Jennifer Platt, University of Sussex, England

The commission to which the material presented here responds was about the presidential addresses, not the presidents as such, and that affects what has been included. Although a presidential address had not been given by every president, it still seemed useful to collate basic information about all of them.

For each president, therefore, the aim has been to list some basic facts, indicated by the headings used, and then to provide a general account of the trajectory of their career until they became president, focussing on those aspects that drew them into ISA and that affected the presidential addresses given.

No attempt has been made to provide complete lists of their publications, since those are relatively easily found; however, selected publications (whether by the president or by other people) are included that have been drawn on in composing the general account, are referred to in the text, or seem to have been particularly important to the president’s reputation.  In addition some items are included that suggest the general national and intellectual background against which the presidents worked.

A special effort has been made, in the interests of future research, to include clues to the social and intellectual networks from which their work and ISA participation have emerged. Where there is a web site or festschrift which provides fuller information a reference to it is given.

All the presidents have of course been very distinguished, and it is normal for them to have held many visiting professorships abroad, received honours, taken part in a variety of bodies some of which had national policy remits, held important consultancies, been members of cross-national editorial boards, etc. These have not been fully listed. It is often impossible to tell, without much more information than is readily available, what the significance was of the titles listed, and for listed items dates are commonly not given; thus one cannot always tell whether an item was temporary or long-term, an honour or just a task.

However a limited selection, intended to represent the general pattern of their activity, has usually been made from the listings found, and appears under the heading ‘Participation in other settings’.

Inevitably the material available varies, and for those before the age of the internet it is less easily accessible, so the material offered differs in quantity and topics covered. Readers who know of useful additional sources (in whatever language) are invited to send the details to Jennifer Platt, with a full reference and a few lines of explanation of what they provide. Potential corrections too are warmly invited; please send them, with the appropriate documentation.


  • von Alemann, Heine (1978) ‘Kongressausberichte’, Klner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 30: 806-814.
  • Angell, Robert C. (1956) ‘The moral web in social change’, Transactions of the Third World Congress of Sociology vol. 6: 1-11.
  • Bottomore, T. B. (1956) ‘Introduction’, Transactions of the Third World Congress of Sociology, Amsterdam: Koninklijk Instituut. - V.1-3.
  • Cardoso, Fernando Henrique (1986) ‘Welcoming addresss…’, Programme, XI World Congress of Sociology.
  • Cardoso, Fernando H. (1987) ‘Problems of social change, again?’, International Sociology 2: 177-187.
  • Friedmann, Georges (1961)  ‘Allocution du président’, Transactions of the Fourth World Congress of Sociology, vol. 3: 1-10.
  • Grémion, Pierre and Françoise Piotet eds. (2004)  Georges Friedmann. Un sociologue dans le siècle, 1902-1977.
  • Marshall, T. H. (1964) ‘Presidential address’, Transactions of the Fifth World Congress of Sociology, vol. IV: 9-15.
  • Pereyra, Diego E. (2010) ‘Dilemmas, challenges and uncertain boundaries of Argentinian Sociology’, pp. 212-222 in ed.
  • Sujata Patel, The ISA Handbook of Diverse Sociological Traditions.
  • Platt, Jennifer (1998) A Brief History of the ISA: 1948-1997, International Sociological Association.
  • Wirth, Louis (1951)  ‘The significance of sociology’, International Social Science Bulletin 3: 197-201.
  • [whole issue] (1953) ‘The Technique of International Conferences’, International Social Science Bulletin 5.2.

Note on sources: This work was commissioned by the Publications Committee, which funded a trip to the archive of ISA papers held at the Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis (IISG) in Amsterdam. World Congress programmes and other ISA publications, plus minutes of committees and archived correspondence among those involved, provide the basic data used in compiling the information presented. Unfortunately copies of documents of such kinds which are known to have existed have not all in practice been located, despite the excellent IISG archive holdings. In some cases I have been able to supplement what is in the public domain by drawing on archival resources originally collected by myself for historical work on the ISA or other topics, or on interviews carried out for earlier projects. Kurt Jonassohn, then joint Executive Secretary of the ISA, conducted interviews for his own research in the early 1980s, and has generously passed on to me the transcripts of his interviews with many leading figures; these have also provided valuable data not available elsewhere.