Yale's prominence in international and area studies has its roots in the earliest days of the University, with early missionaries trained at Yale who worked in Asia and around the world. Yale had one of the first faculty chairs in a non-western language, Sanskrit, the root language of much of contemporary South Asia. The seeds of a proud Latin Americanist tradition were planted in the early 1900s, with the appointment of Hiram Bingham in 1906 as a professor of History and Archaeology who subsequently brought Machu Picchu and Incan civilization to Western attention. At the very beginning of the twentieth century, Yale awarded one of the first U.S. Ph.D.s to an Asian-born scholar, Ken-ichi Asakawa, who later became a distinguished professor of Japanese History and Languages at Yale, retiring in 1942. There was an institutional presence for world area studies at Yale as early as the 1930s. Paralleling area studies, Yale's scholarly strength in international relations grew in the interwar years with the then highly-innovative and interdisciplinary Institute for International Relations. This Institute, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation as well as corporate and alumni sponsors, established the first interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at Yale.
During World War II, these parallel academic streams were combined into a formidable set of training programs, geared largely to the needs of the U.S. military in the languages, culture, history and economics of different parts of the world. After the war, these programs grew into a variety of freestanding interdisciplinary faculty councils with notable strengths in East Asia, Southeast Asia and Russia and Eastern Europe. These interdisciplinary councils were tied loosely to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with resources overseen by the Provost. Area studies and international relations efforts at Yale enjoyed support from major foundations, notably the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation. Faculty with interests in Africa formed a council in 1958. With the passage of the National Defense Education Act in 1958, these language and area studies programs also received additional support from the federal government.
In the early 1960s, the University created the Concilium on International and Area Studies with its first director, Professor Arthur Wright. The Concilium's main purpose was to coordinate and support the efforts of the area studies councils and the remaining activities of the former Institute of International Relations. Some of the Councils had organized Masters degrees in their respective area studies and the Concilium's faculty director directly administered the remnants of faculty research support from the Institute and, supported by Political Science faculty with Institute PhD's, also administered the interdisciplinary Masters of International Relations. The Concilium's faculty director was appointed by the Provost and, in turn, he nominated the faculty Chairs of the constituent Councils to be appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. In 1968, the Latin American Studies Council faculty initiated its undergraduate major following the majors that the older Councils had been establishing in the 60s. In the 1970s, the Middle Eastern Studies Council and the Canadian Studies Committee were established within the Concilium. By the middle of the 1970s, the Southeast Asian Studies Council had abandoned its masters program, unable to withstand the stresses associated with the US-Vietnam War.
In the early 1980s, the Concilium was further streamlined and given a new name, the Yale Center for International and Area Studies with William Foltz, Heinz Professor of African Studies as the first Center Director. After a major fund-raising campaign to fulfill matching obligations, YCIAS regularized its control over and procedures for allocating the 8 Ford Foundation faculty chairs to various departments when vacancies occurred. With Title VI and alumni support, YCIAS also built-up the International Relations Masters and was a founding member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs. Title VI also provided pivotal support for building Council programs, library and language resources in African, Latin American, East Asian, and Russian and East European Studies. Council-based outreach programs also began to professionalize programs and staff, establishing a tradition of robust summer institutes for teachers. In 1989, the Fox International Fellowship began as a graduate and faculty exchange with Moscow State University.
In the early 1990s, under the directorship of Gaddis Smith, the Larned Professor of History, YCIAS launched the South Asian Studies Committee, several research initiatives and a new international, interdisciplinary undergraduate major in International Studies. Despite such vibrancy, being spread across campus in four different buildings constrained YCIAS from reaching its full potential. In 1994, the Fox Fellowship expanded to include graduate students to and from Yale and Cambridge University's Sidney Sussex College. By the end of Professor Smith's directorship, YCIAS and the University had solved the space problem and YCIAS moved into Henry R. Luce Hall in 1995, well positioned for dramatic growth of its programs. Made possible by an extraordinary gift from the Luce Foundation, Luce Hall provided 40,000 square feet of class and seminar space, an auditorium and a common room, and offices for staff, faculty, and visiting scholars. In 1995, the faculty created the International Affairs Council, comparable to the Area Studies Councils, to provide interdisciplinary faculty oversight of the largest degrees at YCIAS, the International Relations MA and the International Studies undergraduate major and begin to build a larger research and faculty-student community of interest focused on cross-cutting global and international themes and issues. Related research initiatives, International Security Studies and United Nations Studies, were incubated at YCIAS and spun-off. With the growing presence in Yale College, the YCIAS Director's appointment was shifted to the President at the recommendation of the Provost and, in turn, the faculty Chairs of the constituent Councils were appointed by the Provost at the recommendation of the Director.
Beginning in 1996, under the leadership of Gustav Ranis, Frank Altschul Professor of International Economics, YCIAS programs grew and deepened. They received strong support from Yale's President, Richard Levin, who had made the internationalization of Yale's research and curricula a top University priority. The international and area studies councils and their degree programs were revitalized, in part, by taking up the challenge of addressing problems comparatively across world regions. A new interdisciplinary undergraduate major in Ethnicity, Race and Migration began, supported by American Studies and the International Affairs Council. YCIAS motivated and channeled faculty interest by enabling a variety of special interdisciplinary research programs and initiatives to address a range of emerging issues of global, international and national scope including, for example, Crossing Borders, Globalization and Self-Determination, International Political Economy, European Union, Central Asia, Hellenic Studies, and the Center for the Study of Globalization.
The creation of the University Center for Language Studies in 1998 provided YCIAS a strong partner. Its pedagogic support made it possible for YCIAS to directly offer languages and oversee language faculty through the Councils including Hindi, Modern Greek, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Zulu, Swahili and Yoruba. With Title VI and other resources, YCIAS and several Councils partnered with CLS to launch Directed Independent Language Studies to enable students to learn critical languages not normally taught at Yale. The Fox Fellowship also expanded to include five new partners - Free University of Berlin, Fudan University in Shanghai, Sciences Po in Paris, El Colegio de Mexico and Jawahral Nehru University in Delhi. Overall resources for YCIAS tripled in six years with yeoman fundraising efforts from every possible source. Beyond faculty research, teaching programs and publications, visiting scholar numbers grew from 4 to 60 per year and student grants and fellowships for overseas research and study also expanded, especially for undergraduates. This growth spurt culminated in securing three additional YCIAS Interdisciplinary International Professorships.
In July 2004, Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department, succeeded Professor Ranis. He has challenged the faculty to build the research and teaching enterprises around three broad sets of issues: Identity, Security, and Conflict; Democracy Past, Present, and Future, and Justice and Distribution at Local, National, Regional, and Global Levels. In 2005, three new universities joined the Fox International Fellowship - University of Cape Town, Bogazici University in Istanbul and Tel Aviv University - bringing Yale and eleven elite institutions into a robust graduate student exchange. Beyond the core interdisciplinary research and teaching missions of the Councils and research programs, YCIAS began to support policy-focused efforts, including the launch of a new cluster of policy courses to deepen the MA in International Relations. Six new graduate certificates were launched to enable students to tap the expertise of the YCIAS Councils to ensure a solid international foundation in their specialized degrees from across the University. In recognition of YCIAS' University-wide role, the Director's term was expanded to five years in parallel to Deans of the colleges and schools at Yale. The first YCIAS Bulletin was added to the University's official series.
In April 2006, YCIAS was re-named The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale. With the naming, the University reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen and increase the senior faculty to sustain and continue building strength in international and area studies.