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:
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
At the time of its establishment by the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 1998, the Institute comprised the four working groups (erstwhile Academy commissions)
These were joined by a fifth in May 2011, the working group on Vernacularisation in Late Medieval Europe having been created with the support of a grant from the ERC.
The sections incorporated into the Institute in 2012 were also former Academy commissions rich in tradition, namely the Commission for Byzantine Research and the Commission for the Tabula Imperii Byzantini, as well as the Commission for Palaeography and Codicology of Medieval Manuscripts. More information regarding the history of these research enterprises can be accessed via the links to the websites of the Institute's different divisions.
Working with medieval sources that are mainly written in Latin or Greek demands a high level of technical expertise such as has been passed on and refined over the generations in Vienna. It also requires an openness to new approaches, current issues and international developments in medieval research. The Institute plays its part in the great tradition of source-based medieval research in Vienna and at the Academy. In the Institute for Austrian Historical Research (Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung) Vienna been home to one of the leading training and research centres for the historical auxiliary sciences since the middle of the 19th century.