The Institute was founded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences at the initiative of Herwig Friesinger and Herwig Wolfram on January 1, 1998. It was founded for an initial period of five years as the Forschungsstelle für Geschichte des Mittelalters (Research Centre for Medieval History) and saw the amalgamation of a number of venerable research commissions within the Academy. Two further Academy research centres, the Institute for Byzantine Research and the Commission for Palaeography and Codicology of Medieval Manuscripts were incorporated into the Institute on July 1, 2012.

In the course of this expansion four divisions were created:

  • Paleography and Codicology
  • Byzantine Research
  • Editing Projects and Source Research/MIR
  • Historical Identity Research

Through this process the Academy has created a framework that facilitates sustainable source-based research and the development of both national and international research networks