The original idea for the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) was to establish an institute at Johns Hopkins University that would help American policymakers, corporate executives, and the media better understand both the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, and their pivotal role in the transatlantic alliance. It was the only think tank to do so. Johns Hopkins was a natural home for AICGS, as the University was renowned for its research and had long-standing relationships with German academic institutions.
The Institute’s two founders—Steven Muller, then President of Johns Hopkins, and Robert Gerald Livingston—were determined that the Institute would be forward looking in its research and programming. The new organization would not focus primarily on the study of a historical Germany. Instead, the new organization would seek to explain postwar contemporary Germany—a democratic state with a market economy, a founding and influential member of the European Community, a pivotal ally in NATO, and an important partner for the United States. The Institute’s programs would examine the changing dynamics of German economics, politics, and society. In looking at both Germanys, in a certain sense, AICGS anticipated unification of the two German states.
The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 signaled the end of the Cold War and opened up the possibility for German unification, which occurred formally on October 3, 1990. The Institute’s programmatic focus now embraced a broader agenda that increasingly considered the German-American partnership in the context of transatlantic and global affairs. It was also during this period that the Institute’s core research structure fully developed into the current tri-part model of Business & Economics; Foreign & Domestic Policy; and Society, Culture & Politics.