Introduction and history

Many different reasons played their part in the fact that the tradition of the Warsaw School of the History of Ideas was abandoned. In the Polish context the most important reason was obviously the political one. Forced mass emigration after the March events in 1968, leading to the dispersion of many distinguished members of the Warsaw School around the globe, and the repression of the freedom of speech in the conjunction with a change of the intellectual atmosphere in Poland – those two factors primarily contributed to the academic discontinuation and rendered impossible to develop and advance the very idea of the School. Single thinkers may still have been working and publishing in the spirit of the School but their efforts have to be recognized as isolated. Moreover, after the 1989 this current of thought sank in even deeper oblivion as both an aftermath and part of natural and understandable gesture of severance from the troublesome legacy of the previous political system. 
The said oblivion may have yet another cause: intellectual change in the Western thought that transpired in the second half of the 20th century. Linguistic turn in philosophy and concurrently a veritable eruption of structuralism and poststructuralism played their part in rejection and suppression of the historical paradigm, nowadays often referred to as „historicist”. 

Precisely today is the right moment to bring out of the shadows the legacy of the School. There are many ponderable historical reasons for its revival – for example, we may still talk with many of the School’s living members – but above all there is an intellectual demand for it, for it seems that we have reached the necessary distance which enables us to investigate the history of thought in 20th century. That epoch is sufficiently remote to us so we can engage in a fruitful discussion with it. Taking into account the lessons of those currents of thought which were critical towards historical paradigm, we should nevertheless retrieve the output of the School and incorporate it into our way of thinking. Such demand is even more urgent in view of the fact that the beginning of the 21st century disproved the „end of history” claims; history sped up and for the contemporary  thinkers it represents both a challenge and an obligation to understand this sudden acceleration.
For the Polish intellectuals winning back the legacy of the Warsaw School of Ideas  should be even more important. The School represents an original and unique Polish contribution to the intellectual disputes that took place in the West in the last half-century. Fruitful discussion with the achievements of the School may become a starting point for elaborating a common and truly original Polish stance in the most important contemporary debates in humanities, for the School remains a vital element of our national heritage in the sphere of ideas. 

prof. Bronisław Baczko
Projekt finansowany przez Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego
w ramach Narodowego Programu Rozwoju Humanistyki
© Polska Akademia Nauk