The “Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres” is comprised of fifty-five French academicians and forty Associate Foreign Members. In addition, there are fifty French corresponding Members and fifty Foreign Corresponding Members.
The “Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres” brings together individuals of exceptional qualification, representative of many walks of life. Academicians are scholars elected to the Academy for life by their peers, in recognition of their work in fields lying within the sphere of the Academy’s competence (archaeology, history, philology and their multiple divisions and specialist areas), of their high level of commitment and in respect to their international standing.
When a Seat becomes vacant due to the passing on of a Member, the Academy decides, according to a majority ruling among votes cast, whether to proceed to seek a replacement. If such is the case, then the Executive Bureau proposes a date for the election of the new Member. If not, a new deliberation takes place on the question after a six months’ delay. In contrast to the usual practice in the academic world, the “Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres” does not put out a call for candidates. Each Academician has the right to propose a candidate after making information on the prospective candidate’s work and titles available. The vote is by secret ballot and an absolute majority of Members present is required for the appointment.
Associate Foreign Members are elected in a similar way. They are often Members of the most prestigious academies of their own countries and are among the most eminent scholars throughout the world. As for the Corresponding Members, they transmit information to the Academy and participate in its activities and projects. The Corresponding Members are chosen by the Academicians and provide a pool from which the Academy often recruits its Members.
Even though there are no real divisions among the Academicians, the Seats are distributed evenly, according to a tradition of fairness and effectiveness, among four informal groups (the “orientalists”, the “antiquists”, the “medievalists”, and a fourth ’miscellaneous’ group). The “orientalists” actually represent a very diverse group due to the fact that their area of study is vast, both in geographical location (an area that spans the distance between the southern and eastern Mediterranean all the way to the Far East) and time (from the ancient times of Egypt and Mesopotamia, through today’s Islam, in modern India and China). The “antiquists” include all the scholars such as archaeologists, numismatists, philologists and historians who study ancient Greece and Rome (including the confines of the Greco-Roman world), but also the culture of Gaul. Among the “medievalists” we find scholars whose specialist fields are very diversified in time (the entire Middle Ages, generally considered to include the period up until the Renaissance and today extended little by little to the 17th century), and in space (to the West is aggregated the Byzantine world) and still more according to nature of the problems examined. As for the last group, qualified the “miscellaneous” ones, it includes linguists, law historians, historians of religion, historians of thought, and prehistorians.