Institute for Contemporary History was founded on the 31st of January 1969 through the fusion of the Department of Historical Sciences of the Institute for Social Sciences and the Department for History of the Yugoslav Workers’ Movement of the Institute of the Workers Movement. This fusion was expressing a need to establish a scholarly research center which would bridge the gap between the studies of the “history of bourgeoisie” and the “history the workers movement” through the institutionalization of interests for contemporary history. Institute was placed on the fourth floor of the former building of the Privileged Agrarian Bank, where it is situated today as well. .

It had around 50 employees researching on 11 projects: (1) Social and historical preconditions of the process of creation of Yugoslavia in the course of the First World War, (2) Economical development, class differentiation and the change of Yugoslav social structures, (3) Social, political and cultural development in the interwar Yugoslavia, (4) Communist Party and the Yugoslav workers’ movement, (5) International position and foreign policy of Yugoslavia 1918–1975, (6) Communist Party and international movements 1919–1974, (7) Yugoslavia in the Second World War, (8) Social, political and cultural development of SFR Yugoslavia, (9) German aggression and the occupation of Yugoslavia, (10) Publishing historical sources for the history of Yugoslavia and (11) Bibliography the history of the workers’ movement and CPY. In accordance with this conception, the Institute was working on history of the workers movement and the Communist party, but it has in the same time laid foundations for the institutionalized research of the recent past. The fellows of the institute have published form 1969 until 1994 104 monographs, 48 periodical publications, 28 edited volumes, 114 collections of documents, 15 bibliographies and 11 chronologies.

With the dissolution of socialist Yugoslavia , the Institute for Contemporary History was not discontinued. The changes influenced refocusing of the scholarly perspective, unburdened of political pressure. Regretfully, the deteriorating political, social and economical situation resulted in serious cuts in the number of employees. Nevertheless from 1995 until 2000 fellows of the institute published further 33 monographs and a number of articles within the macro-project “History of Yugoslavia in the 20th century” (through subprojects History of Yugoslavia 1918–1941, Yugoslavia in the Second World War 1941–1945 and Yugoslavia 1945–1992). The wideness of the topical scope and methodological directions of those publications are reflecting the attempts the Institute made to adjust itself to contemporary approaches to contemporary history.

Those attempts were systematized in 2001 with the introduction of the project system.