It is almost 30 years now since the European Values Studies (EVS) were launched. They were carried out in 14 European countries at first (in 1981), then gradually extended to the whole of the continent, as broadly conceived (47 countries in 2008). By means of precise questionnaires relating to all fields of private and social life –many of the surveys being repeated identically over the four waves of studies so far completed, with others regularly updated to cover social developments that were difficult to anticipate 30 years ago– we have a great wealth of material at our disposal, enabling us to gauge social change in the various European countries and compare by broad cultural areas the trends at work in terms of values and behaviour. From the second wave of studies onwards, Futuribles provided a sounding board for the valuable analyses that were to be drawn from them (special issue of July-August 1995) and continued with the venture after the third wave (July-August 2002 issue). The fourth wave of studies begun in 2008 presents an opportunity once again to open the columns of our journal to the researchers who have delved into the analysis of the latest findings and the long-term comparisons to be made from them, brilliantly coordinated by Pierre Bréchon who, in this introductory article, demonstrates the considerable contribution made by the Values studies to the understanding of developments within European societies.