Fellowship – Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an ‘original contribution to the discipline of history’?
An original contribution may be a book or other work, usually based on original primary research, that offers insights that contribute to our understanding of broader historical problems and issues. For many Fellows, the emphasis will be placed on the contribution to the scholarship, but for others the emphasis may lie in the diffusion and dissemination of historical knowledge.

2. Do I have to have written a book?
Most of those elected to the Fellowship have produced a full-length book. However, it is also possible to be elected on the basis of a body of work of similar scale and importance, such as scholarly editions, edited collections, translations, catalogues or calendars of historical materials, or a substantial set of essays and articles.

We also welcome applications from those who have made a significant scholarly contribution to the historical discipline through non-academic pathways: for example, curatorial work, exhibitions, web-based work, editorial work, and writing or directing historical film, TV or radio. If you have any queries about whether Fellowship is the right category for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

3. Do I have to have a PhD?
Most RHS fellows have a doctorate, but doctoral research is not a requirement of the Fellowship.

4. Do I have to teach in a university?
No. We regularly elect independent scholars conducting historical research outside universities to the Fellowship. We also elect museum curators, filmmakers, writers, journalists and others whose work, while focussed on communicating aspects of history to a wider public, is also grounded in their own historical scholarship.

5. I work in another discipline, but with a historical dimension. Am I eligible?
Of course! Our definition of history includes all forms of exploration of the human past, so the Society welcomes applications from those working in many other related disciplines.

6. Do I have to agree to the statement of ethics?
Yes. In addition to having made a significant contribution to the discipline of history, all applicants for Fellowship of the Society are judged against the values laid out our Statement of Ethics.

7. Who can act as my referee?
Applications must be supported by one Fellow of the Society. S/he need not be known to the applicant personally. A list of current Fellows of the Society may be consulted here. The Fellow may be resident in the same institution as the applicant.

8. What if I do not know any existing Fellows who could support my application?
Please contact our office who will help to connect you with a Fellow or Councillor to support your application.

9. How are decisions reached on applications?
Applications are reviewed internally and the Society reserves the right to check the accuracy and veracity of all applications and to establish that the applicant adheres to our code of ethics. Following internal review, recommendations are made to the Council of the Society. All decisions are taken by Council. Wherever possible Council’s decisions are made at the first meeting following receipt of the application and of the Fellow’s recommendation.

All enquiries about applying for election to the Membership should be addressed to the RHS office: membership@royalhistsoc.org


‘History and Archives in Practice’ – first conference in new annual series held on 29 March

On 29 March, the Society held its first day-conference in its new series, History and Archives in Practice (#HAP23). Co-organised with The National Archives and Institute of Historical Research, the conference brought together historians and archivists to discuss collaborative working, with reference to current projects.

This year’s HAP conference, with a capacity audience, heard from 14 projects involving 17 archive centres and universities across the UK. Full details of the day and these projects are available here.



Sessions focused on (among other topics) widening participation, research ethics, working with volunteers, public engagement and digital preservation, as well handling and demonstration sessions placing collections at the heart of the event.

Recordings of the panels will be released shortly.

Extra panel session for our video presenters, 27 April 2023



An additional 5 projects have created short videos of their work, and we’ll be continuing the conversation with the presenters of these videos, online, at 12.45pm on Thursday 27 April to which all are welcome.

Taking part in HAP24

From 2024, we’re taking History and Archives in Practice around the UK.

If your archive / university is interested in partnering with the RHS, TNA and IHR for HAP24 next March, please contact us.


Statement on Good Practice for Historians

The principles outlined in this Statement of Good Practice for Historians are aligned with the Society’s charitable objectives.

All members should be aware of the ethical, legal and professional responsibilities incumbent to the specific community in which they work. All individuals should avoid personal and professional misconduct that might bring the Society or the reputation of the profession into disrepute.

The maintenance of high professional standards includes:

  • being acquainted with best practice in the use and evaluation of evidence;
  • understanding and following intellectual property laws;
  • taking particular care when research concerns those still living and when the anonymity of individuals is required;
  • observing the ethical and legal requirements of the repositories and collections being used;
  • avoiding plagiarism, fabrication, falsification and deception in proposing, carrying out and reporting the results of research;
  • following robust procedures for the citation of sources.

The maintenance of high ethical standards includes:

  • declaring any interests, including financial ones, that bear on professional life;
  • reporting any conflict of interest;
  • observing fairness and equity in the conduct of research, teaching and administration, and representing credentials accurately and honestly;
  • behaving and acting with integrity where summarising, interpreting or translating material for publication or communication so as not to misrepresent the historical record.


Other statements of good practice

You may also wish to consult the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct; the European Commission’s guide to Ethics in Social Science and Humanities; and the RESPECT Code of Practice for Socio-Economic Research.

The Society echoes the encouragement within the AHA statement for ‘all historians to uphold and defend their professional responsibilities with the utmost seriousness, and to advocate for integrity, and fairness and high standards throughout the historical profession.’


Selected further reading

There are many valuable studies of historical practice, of which the following is a small selection:

  • Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft (1954, Manchester reprint 2015, with an introduction by Peter Burke)
  • James M. Banner, Being a Historian: an Introduction to the Professional World of History (Cambridge, 2012)
  • Peter Claus and John Marriott, History: an Introduction to Theory, Method and Practice (London, 2017)
  • Penelope J. Corfield and Tim Hitchcock, Becoming a Historian. An Informal Guide (London, 2022)
  • Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice (London, 2000, third edition 2019)
  • Tracey Loughran ed. A Practical Guide to Studying History. Skills and Approaches (London, 2017)
  • John Tosh, The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of Modern History (London, 1984, sixth edition 2006)