From its inception the Editorial Board of Contemporary European History has met annually to discuss matters of journal business and policy. Members have travelled from the United States and Australia, as well as several European countries, to be present at these meetings and have never just made up a list of distinguished but inactive names. At the annual meeting of 1997 it was suggested that, for a change, we should use the opportunity of the 1999 meeting to allow board members to reflect on their own fields of historical research at the turn of the century. As a result the April 1999 board meeting, which took place in New York thanks to the good offices of the Remarque Institute of New York University and its Director, Professor Tony Judt, transformed itself into a small conference, ‘Reflections on the Twentieth Century’. It is some of the (revised) ‘think-pieces’ of that conference that form this issue of the journal. Not all papers given at the conference appear here. Those that do have been seen by external referees.