The French collection is among the larger national collections at the IISH. Materials date back to the emergence of the revolutionary ideology in the second half of the eighteenth century. Since the Revolution, French political and social history throughout the nineteenth century has been characterized by alternating authoritarian and enlightened regimes that resulted from the revolutionary movements. The collections trace the ups and downs of these movements and the people who either led them or advanced ideas for building a new, more equitable world. The IISH has an impressive collection on utopian socialist thinkers including Cabet, Fourier, Saint-Simon and Proudhon. The twentieth-century French collections focus on anarchism, neo-Malthusianism and student and workers' struggles, but materials on left-wing political parties and individuals are also abundant. Microfilms of collections held in other archival institutions (e.g., Babeuf, Blanqui, Elisée Reclus in Moscow) complete the IISH collections.
The collection may be accessed in various ways via the IISH catalogue. The Institute is digitizing its leading archives and collections. Documents in the archives of Lucien Descaves, Etienne Cabet and many others are now fully available to view and download via the IISH catalogue.