Intellectual history is inherently interdisciplinary. It is grounded in the recognition that intellectual traditions, disciplines, and practices, as they developed over time, were inextricably interconnected both to one another and to more concrete historical conditions.
Intellectual history is also inherently international. Since manuscripts, books, writers, practitioners, teachers, and students passed readily across national borders, most major intellectual movements have had international as well as national dimensions.
Intellectual history therefore needs a society which is both interdisciplinary and international to help provide the scholarly infrastructure generally lacking at the institutional, national, and disciplinary levels of modern academic culture.
An international and interdisciplinary society for intellectual history must be methodologically ecumenical. It must recognize the legitimacy, indeed the necessity, of a wide range of approaches to the study of past intellectual life, accommodating the priorities and methods of different national and disciplinary traditions of scholarship.
The most basic infrastructure that intellectual history needs is a variety of forums in which representatives of diverse disciplinary and national traditions can meet and exchange insights.
From its foundation in 1994, the central purpose of the International Society for Intellectual History has been to develop such forums, by organising conferences and publishing first a newsletter and then a journal.