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Cold War Archives Research (CWAR) Institute

The CWAR Institute uses innovative and collaborative approaches to train next generation Cold War historians in archival research methodologies.

Training Next Generation Cold War Historians

The Cold War Archives Research (CWAR) Institute uses innovative and collaborative approaches to train next generation Cold War historians in archival research methodologies. The institute has two goals: to stimulate original scholarship on the interplay between soft and hard power in the cold and hot wars between 1945 and 1991; and to demonstrate the power of cooperative scholarship through innovative archival practices.

The CWAR Institute Fellowship trains a competitively selected group of M.A. and Ph.D. level students through a combination of online training sessions and in-person research experience at Cold War archives and culminates in conferences and publications. CWAR Fellows hone critical research skills in historical and archival methodologies, further their own research agendas in Cold War history, improve their communication and presentation skills, and develop a network of supportive professional contacts.

Call for Applications

The call for applications for the 2023-2024 Cold War Archives Research (CWAR) Institute is now closed. It was open from July 24, 2023, through September 10, 2023. Please check back in mid-summer 2024 for information on the 2024-2025 CWAR Institute.

Conveners & Partner Institutions

The CWAR Institute is an initiative of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program organized in collaboration with a number of international scholars and organizations. It is led by Dr. Victoria Phillips (London School of Economics), Dr. Christian Ostermann (Wilson Center), Dr. Charles Kraus (Wilson Center), and Mr. Nick Cohen.

The Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives at the Central European University, the Cold War History Research Center at Corvinus University, European Institute at Columbia University, the Center for Civil-Military Operations, West Point Military Academy, The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, and the Cold War Group at The George Washington University serve as past and present partner organizations.


The CWAR Institute at the Wilson Center builds on two separate but complementary efforts undertaken previously by Dr. Victoria Philips at Columbia University and the London School of Economics and by the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program.

Under Dr. Philips’ direction, the CWAR Fellowship began in 2015 in association with the European Institute at Columbia University. Initially known as the Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Project Fellowship, the initiative responded to two issues: first, the plethora of archival primary sources available to study RFE/RL was paralleled by a dearth of research on the power of radio during the 20th century by young scholars; second, rather than working in siloed environments, CWAR encouraged cooperative practices. Fellows traveled together to archives in the United States and Hungary, shared materials one another through a central database, and assisted one another with research and writing.

RFE/RL was renamed the Cold War Archives Research (CWAR) Fellowship in 2017 as the focus expanded to other cultural projects and incorporated a wider range of archives relating to cultural initiatives and psychological warfare during the Cold War. CWAR fellows came from the undergraduate and graduate student bodies at Columbia and at the London School of Economics, and West Point Military Academy (USMA) under the Center for Civil-Military Operations, with each class of fellows consisting of 7-15 students including two USMA fellows.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, CWAR fellows had the opportunity to visit archives in the United States, including the Eisenhower Presidential Library; the Hoover Institution and other Special Collections at Stanford University; the National Archives at College Park (combined with visits to Radio Free Europe and the Wilson Center in Washington, DC); Rockefeller Archive Center; and the Special Collections at the University of Arkansas (Cultural Collections-State Department and the Fulbright Collection). In Europe, fellows worked at the British National Archives, Kew; the British Library; and OSA in Budapest. Each year, fellows presented their research at the Student Conference at the Cold War History Research Center, Corvinus University, and were encouraged to pursue publication of these works.

The Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program began hosting an annual Summer Institute on Conducting Archival Research (SICAR) in 2015. SICAR was structured as a four-day intensive and immersive seminar for Ph.D. students and candidates. The program sought to address the lack of formal training in archival research methodologies in graduate programs, despite the centrality of archival research to history and many other academic disciplines. SICAR was also a natural outgrowth of and complement to the Wilson Center’s Digital Archive, which brings together declassified archival documents from around the world related to Cold War history onto a single freely accessible online platform. From 2015-2018, the Wilson Center organized SICAR in collaboration with The George Washington University's Cold War Group (which had first created the program in 2003); in 2020, SICAR was co-organized with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Each year, a competitively selected group of 15-20 students from institutions around the world and from a variety of disciplinary background gathered in Washington, DC, to receive training from world-class faculty, researchers, archivists, policy practitioners, and publishers on conducting archival research and in designing research agendas on topics broadly related to international history, national security, diplomacy and the military. Sessions at SICAR introduced students to the nuts and bolts of research at specific archives (such as the National Archives at College Park, the World Bank Archives, etc.), using the Freedom of Information Act, the work of historians within the U.S. Government (including those who compile the Foreign Relations of the United States volumes), utilizing digital archives and digital research tools, and conducting oral histories and drawing on audio and visual archival sources.

Aside from lectures and discussions, the SICAR program also featured presentations from all student participants as well as informal social and happy hours. The History and Public Policy Program invited all participants to stay involved with the work of the Wilson Center following the end of SICAR by participating in other Center programs, contributing to Center publications and the Digital Archive, or by applying for fellowships and grants at the Wilson Center.

The CWAR Institute combines elements from past iterations of Columbia University's CWAR program and the SICAR program, both in-person and online. It combines the expert trainings in archival research methodologies with group research visits to selected archives. Fellows have the opportunity to present their findings at a student Cold War conference and submit their written research  for publication or as a thesis or dissertation selection. Fellows will continue to benefit from cooperative tactics of scholarship, access to conferences and other professional development opportunities, private seminar discussions with world-class faculty, archivists, policy practitioners, and publication review.

CARE International Project

The CARE International Project at the CWAR Institute uses a combination of monthly online discussions, and in-person research at Cold War archives which will culminate in conferences and publications. Competitively selected early and mid-career scholars will join senior scholars at the institute to explore the history of CARE International through the collaborative cross reading of international archives. The institute will hone critical research skills in historical and archival methodologies, and then develop these skills to meet the new demands of global history through shared and collaborative document analysis. While the CARE archives are English language based, and early publications and discussions will take place in English, the project relies on the language and cultural knowledge of scholars across the over 40 nations in which CARE worked during the Cold War. Click here to learn more about this research project.