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The Royal Historical Society was founded in 1868. The premier society in the United Kingdom which promotes and defends the scholarly study of the past, it is based at University College London.

Purpose and activities

The Society has a varied programme of lectures and one-day and two-day conferences covering a wide range of historical issues. Some of its meetings are held in London; others at university venues throughout Great Britain. They provide excellent opportunities for formal and informal discussion among historians.

Its current membership comprises proposed and elected Honorary Vice-Presidents, Fellows (titled FRHistS or F.R.Hist.Soc.), Corresponding Fellows, Members and Associates. The Society has, appropriately, changed with the times. It began, and for many years continued, as a kind of gentlemen's club. It now exists to promote historical research nationally, and to represent the profession broadly conceived as including those engaged professionally in researching and presenting public history, whether in archives, libraries, museums, or the heritage industry.

The Society is as committed to international as to British history, and it draws strength from, and speaks for, the new universities just as much as the old. The Society's recent rapid growth has resulted directly from this sense of an expanded remit.

The promotion of research proceeds through all the Society's lectures and conferences, and also very directly through small grants to postgraduate researchers and through the Society's various publications, whether in book form, as with the monograph series Studies in History, the Society's own annual Transactions, and the Camden Series of editions and translations of texts, or digitally, as in the Society-sponsored Bibliography of British and Irish History.

The Society's representative role, performed in consultation with the Historical Association and with the History at Universities Defence Group, is distinctive in focusing on historical research, and on the research aspects of the work of those professionally engaged in History. Public recognition of this role has become increasingly apparent in recent years with an ever-growing flow of requests to respond to proposed initiatives from Government and from national institutions such as the British Library and The National Archives. There is a close correspondence, therefore, between what the Society exists to do and what it does. Recent reorganisation of the Society's committees is intended to permit a larger proactive element in its representative role, with more capacity to generate and propose policy initiatives in addition to, as hitherto, reacting to proposals from elsewhere.

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