The Royal Historical Society
- REPRESENTS history as a discipline and historians as a group.
- PROMOTES the vitality of historical scholarship through support for research and publication.
- ADVOCATES best practice in history teaching in universities and schools.
- PROVIDES a forum for all historians to meet and exchange ideas.
- SUPPORTS and encourages early career historians.
- ENCOURAGES, facilitates and supports work towards greater equality, inclusion and representation in historical practice, research and teaching.
Since it was founded in 1868 the Royal Historical Society has become the foremost society in the UK working with professional historians and advancing the scholarly study of the past. We are a learned society with charitable status that is increasingly at the forefront of policy debates about the study of history. We work closely with the Historical Association, the body that leads on history in schools, the Institute of Historical Research, a central hub for the provision of research resources, and History UK (HE), a council of representatives of UK university history departments.
The RHS seeks to represent the interests of historians, to promote the value of historical scholarship and to support the highest possible standards, not just in publications and institutions but also in the conduct of individual historians and in the teaching of the discipline. The RHS Statement on Ethics indicates some of the main areas that touch on historical practice.
How the Royal Historical Society works
The Society is predominantly a voluntary organisation with a revolving Council whose members offer dedicated service ensuring the smooth-running and development of the organisation. Council comprises a body of twenty-three Fellows each of whom serves a four-year term working on our various committees and working parties. Every year the Fellowship elects three new members of Council using a preferential voting system. Council in turn elects our Honorary officers – the President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Directors of Communications – who each serve a four-year term. In addition we have two literary directors who sit on the editorial boards of RHS publications and four Vice Presidents (all members of Council) who act as Chairs of our various committees and undertake other activities for the Society. Our small staff consists of one full-time and two part-time posts.
Defence of public interest
In the last twenty years the Society has increasingly taken on new outward-facing functions, particularly as government demands on the academic system have intensified, and as the universities look primarily to their own institutional interests. The situation has left a vacuum – the defence of the public interest in academic freedom and high-quality research on behalf of the whole academic community – which we have sought to fill. This has involved engaging in public debate, lobbying and input into formal consultation processes on a range of issues from freedom of information to the school curriculum to research funding. It has also required the voluntary leadership to develop more regular and sustained communication with academic historians around the country, in order to get the sense of the community and to identify emerging issues and points of controversy.
In the twenty-first century the Society is at the forefront of public policy debates. Among the issues we have actively and effectively taken up are freedom of information and data protection, the advent and organisation of a research council for the arts and humanities, the research assessment process in universities, the funding and organisation of local and national record offices. Most recently, we have been working on the school curriculum, open-access publishing and gender equality in History Higher Education.
Royal Historical Society Website and Leaflet
Read our guide to the website to help you navigate its content and find out more about our resources and services including RHS membership, grants, prizes, events, publications, and information for Early Career Historians.
Throughout the website the images used aim to reflect a rich and diverse heritage. The Society makes every effort to trace and indicate the provenance of each image, and to ensure they are always used legally and in line with best practice. If you wish to raise any issues in connection with the images displayed on the website, please email us at the address below.
A leaflet giving an overview of our activities and information about how to join the Society is available on request. If you would like to distribute copies of the leaflet at your institution (or elsewhere) please email us at the address below specifying where you want to distribute them and how many you would like.
RHS Leaflet accreditation.
If you have any queries about the website or feedback you’d like to give, please email the Executive Secretary, Dr Sue Carr, at firstname.lastname@example.org