The Institute was founded in 1979 as the Martin Institute of Human Behavior by Boyd A. and Grace C.S. Martin. Boyd Martin, son of an Idaho pioneer family, was born on the family farm east of Cottonwood, Idaho in 1911. He graduated from the University of Idaho in 1936 and went on to earn a doctorate in political science from Stanford University in 1943. Grace Swingler Martin was born in Spokane, Washington and grew up in Kamiah, Idaho where her family owned a farm and store. She attended Washington State University and later graduated with a degree in English from University of California at Los Angeles. They married in December of 1933.
Boyd Martin was a graduate student at Stanford in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland. He was certain that this would lead to another world war, so that evening he discussed the situation with his wife Grace and they agreed to take their life savings, some $800, and invest it with the goal of eventually beginning an institute to study the causes of war, and the conditions necessary for achieving lasting peace. After completing his doctorate, Dr. Martin returned to the University of Idaho as an assistant professor of political science. He went on to become head of the department and in 1955 was named Dean of the College of Letters and Science, a post he held until his retirement in 1973.
Over the years, the $800 that the Martins had invested at the beginning of World War II had grown to over $600,000 when in 1979 the Martin Institute was founded, with Dr. Martin as its first director. In July of 1990 the name was changed to The Martin Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. A half-time interim director was hired to help Dr. Martin expand the institute and its activities and the institute secretary became full-time. A program advisor was added to help manage the International Studies program after the Martin Institute took over its management in 1996. An institute newsletter, the Martin Institute News, was begun in the summer of 1991. Back issues, available on this website, give details of the development of the Martin Institute over the years.
In January 2014, the first dedicated faculty lines in the Martin Institute were established, fulfilling one of Dr. Martin's biggest goals.