The Warburg Institute of the University of London exists principally to further the study of the classical tradition, that is of those elements of European thought, literature, art and institutions which derive from the ancient world. The Institute stems from the personal library of the Hamburg scholar Aby Warburg (1866-1929), whose research centred on the intellectual and social context of Renaissance art. In 1921 this library became a research institute in cultural history, and both its historical scope and its activities as a centre for lectures and publications expanded. In 1933 it moved from Germany to London to escape the Nazi regime, and in 1944 it was incorporated in the University of London. It is now a member-Institute of the University’s School of Advanced Study. Its first Director was Fritz Saxl followed by Henri Frankfort, Gertrud Bing, E. H. Gombrich, J. B. Trapp, Nicholas Mann, Charles Hope and Peter Mack. The tradition drawn on by the Institute includes the work of such distinguished scholars as Warburg himself, Fritz Saxl, Ernst Cassirer, Raymond Klibansky, P. O. Kristeller, Otto Kurz, Arnaldo Momigliano, E. H. Gombrich, D. P. Walker, Frances A. Yates, Charles B. Schmitt and Michael Baxandall. It has been a tradition of new departures achieved primarily by working across the boundaries of established disciplines. The Institute continues to promote this approach through all its research activities.
The Institute houses an Archive, a Library and a Photographic Collection. The Archive holds the papers of Aby Warburg, Fritz Saxl and other staff members of the Institute, including both sides of their correspondence with many leading scholars of the twentieth century. The Warburg Institute is a member Institute of the School of Advanced Study at the University of London.