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The Round Table movement, founded in 1909, was an association of organizations promoting closer union between Britain and its self-governing colonies. The movement began at a conference at Plas Newydd, Lord Anglesey's estate in Wales, over the weekend of 4-6 September.[1] The framework of the organisation was devised by Lionel Curtis, but the overall idea was due to Lord Milner. Former South Africa administrator Philip Kerr became secretary to the organisation.[2]



The groups are a collection of small discussion and lobbying groups in every major capital city of the world coordinated by a headquarters in London. In 1910, The Round Table Journal: A Quarterly Review of the Politics of the British Empire was founded by Lord Milner and members of Milner's Kindergarten (Lionel Curtis, Philip Kerr and Geoffrey Dawson) to unify the political thinking of the groups internationally. After World War II the journal was renamed The Round Table Journal:A Quarterly Review of British Commonwealth Affairs to reflect changing postwar realities.

By 1915 Round Table groups existed in seven countries, including Britain, South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and a rather loosely organized group in the United States (George Louis Beer, Walter Lippmann, Frank Aydelotte, Whitney Shepardson, Thomas W. Lamont, Erwin D. Canham and others).

Society of the Elect

Historian Carroll Quigley claimed that the Round Table Groups were connected to a secret society, which South African diamond baron Cecil Rhodes is believed to have set up with similar goals. Rhodes was believed by some to have formed this secret society in his lifetime. This secret society is supposed to have been named the Society of the Elect.[3]

Rhodes first formalised his idea with William T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, when he and Stead agreed on the structure of the secret society. This proposed secret society had an elaborate hierarchical structure, based on that of the Jesuits, which comprised: at the top, the position of "General of the Society"—a position modelled on the General of the Jesuits—to be occupied by Rhodes, with Stead and Lord Rothschild as his designated successors; an executive committee called the "Junta of Three", comprising Stead, Milner and Reginald Baliol Brett (Lord Esher); then a "Circle of Initiates", consisting of a number of notables including Cardinal Manning, Lord Arthur Balfour, Lord Albert Grey and Sir Harry Johnston; and outside of this was the "Association of Helpers", the broad mass of the Society. One of the puzzles surrounding this meeting is whether the "Society of the Elect" actually came into being. Carroll Quigley claims in Tragedy and Hope (1966) that Rhodes's "Society of the Elect" was not only "formally established" in 1891, although its first inception existed some ten years prior (1881), but that its "outer circle" known as the "Association of Helpers" was "later organised by Milner as the Round Table". [3]

In several of his wills, Rhodes left money for the continuation of the project. However in his later wills, Rhodes abandoned the idea and instead concentrated on what became the Rhodes scholarships, which enabled American, German and English scholars to study for free at Oxford University. [3]

Similar organizations

Lionel Curtis founded the Royal Institute of International Affairs in June 1920. A year later its sister organisation, the Council on Foreign Relations, was formed in America. One of the founders of the sister organisation was another member of the roundtable groups, Walter Lippmann. [3]

Current organisation and membership

The Round Table still exists but its position in influencing the policies of world leaders has been much reduced from its heyday during the First World War. Today it is largely a Commonwealth ginger group, designed to consider and influence Commonwealth policies. It also continues to run Round Table, a journal, and hold dinners and conferences.

Informally, the Round Table is known as 'The Moot'.

A list of the Round Table membership is below:

  • Pal Ahluwalia
  • Amitav Banerji
  • Terry Barringer
  • Richard Bourne (Chairman)
  • Stephen Chan
  • Stephen Cox
  • Alexander Evans
  • Paul Flather
  • David French
  • Oren Gruenbaum
  • Amelia Hadfield
  • Meredith Hooper
  • Derek Ingram
  • David Jobbins
  • Alexandra Jones
  • Peter Lyon
  • Claire Martin
  • Sir Humphrey Maud
  • Alex May
  • James Mayall
  • Sir Michael McWilliam
  • Stuart Mole
  • Martin Mulligan
  • Alastair Niven
  • Mark Robinson
  • Prunella Scarlett
  • Victoria Schofield
  • Tim Shaw
  • Nicholas Sims
  • Tim Slack
  • Kayode Soyinka
  • Sir Robert Wade-Gery
  • Jennifer Welsh
  • Andrew J. Williams

International Advisory Board


  1. ^ Historical Dictionary of the British Empire. 1996. ISBN 0313279179.  
  2. ^ J. Lee Thompson (2007). Forgotten Patriot: A Life of Alfred, Viscount Milner of St. James's And Cape Town, 1854-1925. ISBN 0838641210.  
  3. ^ a b c d Quigley, Carroll : Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. G. S. G. & Associates, Incorporated (june 1975). ISBN 094500110X, ISBN 978-0945001102

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