The International Commission of Military History (ICMH) was set up in 1938 as a working group within the International Committee of Historical Sciences (ICHS), which itself is part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In July 1972, the ICMH was granted the status of Affiliated International Organisation, a status it still holds today.
The aims of the ICMH can be summarised in a nutshell as the furthering and coordination of military historical research throughout the world. The ICMH wants to be a platform for the exchange of ideas by and for military historians.
The ICMH comprises a great many National Commissions in which the military historians of the various member states are represented.
The ICMH tries to achieve its objectives in the following ways:
- by organising seminars and conferences. In the early years such international conferences were only held once every five years, coinciding with the ICHS conferences. During the Cold War, the growing need for more opportunities for exchanging and developing ideas led to the frequency of the conferences being stepped up. Military history conferences have been held annually since 1980. The organisation of these conferences is the responsibility of the National Commissions.
- by publishing books and organising lectures to be presented at the military historical conferences. To date, there have been 26 of these Acta, some of which are in several volumes.
- by editing the International Review of Military History, each issue of which is intended to increase readers’ familiarity with certain aspects of military history of particular countries or regions. The first issue was published in Paris in 1939, and there have been 83 editions since.
- by editing the International Bibliography of Military History (since 1978), thereby making the main body of military historical literature accessible to a large public. There have been 24 issues of this bibliography, edited under the final responsibility of the Bibliography Committee, acting collectively as the editor-in-chief.
- by promoting consultation among the coordinators of the main military historical archives and their main users, military history researchers. The activities undertaken by the Archives Committee have led, inter alia, to the annual publication of the Mars & Janus newsletter. Publication began in 1990.