The conference is planned as an important happening within a series of initiatives aimed at creating a European community in the history of science. The first conference of the ESHS, held in Maastricht, 4 – 6 November 2004, set the tone, and the society now looks forward to building on the achievements of that conference in a gathering that will bring together scholars from all parts of Europe, from the West and East, North and South, and the Centre of the continent. The aim of the Cracow Conference is to create an opportunity for a creative dialogue and an exchange of experiences among representatives of different countries, including the old and new members of the European Union, as well as countries out of the Community.
Science, developed with great success across the world, is to a large extent a historical heritage of Europe. It is also one of the main foundations of the cultural, economical and political integration of this part of the world. The History of Science as a field of research aims to show science (both exact, natural and social sciences) in all historical contexts with its divers and changing relationships with culture and society: with philosophy, arts, religion, technology, politics and economics. Therefore, this branch is a kind of bridge between seemingly remote disciplines as exact and natural sciences and as humanities. The research outcomes of this branch may and do deepen our understanding of culture and, in consequence, they may help to integrate culture as a whole – it is one of the conclusions that caused to create Scientific Archives and Museums, and to teach History of science in Higher Education.
European reflection on the History of Science, understood in the broad sense sketched above, is determined now by some global factors and a variety of local. The former are the process of cultural, political and economical integration of Europe, and the establishment of the ESHS. The latter are a wealth of varied conditions of particular places, centres and countries where we live and operate. These joint factors may and do cause some crucial differences in understanding the History of science, both on general scale and with regard to particular matters. There exists at least a true need to be aware of them.
The history of science is understood here in two main senses, formal and material. It is understood, on the one hand, as the Historiography of Science (i.e. a branch of knowledge, devoted to the study of the science of the past (as well as of the present), a discipline with its specific objectives, methodology, theory, writing and teaching) and, on the other, as the events or processes of development of science (past and present) themselves.
Consequently, the subject-matter of the conference is determined additionally by the two complementary themes: “The Historiography of Science and the Cultural Integration of Europe” and “Historical Role of Science in the Cultural Integration of Europe”.
(It is worth noticing here that the meaning of the term “historiography” is often restricted only to “the study of the way history has been and is written” or to “the history of historical writing” or to “the study of history seen in the light of ideological and philosophical systems”. However, from a methodological point of view, this is a regrettable limitation based on an illusion that the historian is able “to research history directly” (by using so-called primary sources) as well as “to create purely descriptive reconstructions of history” (by using only “hard historical facts” or “pure facts”, free of any theoretical or philosophical interpretation or generalization).)