As an institution dedicated to developing all forms of scientific knowledge concerning human interactions and relationships, the EHESS has long been considered an "innovation hub" for the Social Sciences. For nearly 70 years, the School has been a major player in the renewal and reinvention of theories, methodologies and practice in history, anthropology, and sociology. The school has also promoted and supported inter-disciplinary collaborations between cognitive sciences and philosophy, poetry and mathematics, and is the home the of a new institutionally recognized economic tradition, the success of which is internationally recognized.

The EHESS has its origins in the 6th section of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, created in 1947 under the direction of Lucien Febvre. It bears the legacy of three decades dedicated to carving out a place for the Social Sciences as a recognised epistemological domain, and as a space for inter-disciplinary exchanges mobilized by a shared research object: human societies. As President of the 6th section of the EPHE since 1972, Jacques LeGoff worked for the creation of an autonomous institution: the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS). The school was established by decree on January 25 1975. In the early 1970s, it was housed at 54 Boulevard Raspail in Paris, in the same building as the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, founded by Fernand Braudel. From the very beginning, it was the seat of a number of influential research centers that provided an intellectual home for some of the greatest historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and philosophers of the time including: Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Derrida, François Furet, Françoise Hértier, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Jean-Pierre Vernant. 

The EHESS attracts students from all over the world, who come to benefit from a complementary approach that combines a deep analysis of the past with research that is explicitly directed at understanding today's world. Students and researchers come together in seminars, which have been the traditional spaces of training for research through research, since the foundation of the EHESS.

Ever since its official launch as an autonomous institution in 1975, the EHESS's mission has been to promote debates between researchers in order to establish dialogues and exchanges about concepts, disciplines, and cultural zones. To celebrate the anniversary of its foundation as an independent institution, numerous scientific and artistic events were organized throughout 2015, which celebrated and interrogated the diversity and richness of current research and the innovative potential of future work in the Social Sciences.