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History of the British Academy

History of the British Academy

The creation of a British Academy ‘for the Promotion of Historical, Philosophical and Philological Studies’ was first proposed in 1899 in order that Britain could be fully represented at meetings of European and American academies. The organisation, which became known simply as the British Academy, received its Royal Charter from King Edward VII in 1902.

Since then, many of Britain’s most distinguished scholars in the humanities and social sciences have been involved in the life of the British Academy. The roll call of past Fellows includes many of the greatest British names of the twentieth century, such as the influential economists John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and William Beveridge; the eminent thinkers Karl Popper and Isaiah Berlin, Louis and Mary Leakey, who made pioneering discoveries on the origins of man; A.J.P. Taylor, Kenneth Clark and Mortimer Wheeler, scholars who were also great communicators; and C.S. Lewis and Henry Moore, Fellows who combined learning with creativity. 

In 1998, the British Academy moved to its present headquarters at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace. Carlton House Terrace was built in 1831 to designs by John Nash. Between 1856 and 1874, No 11 was home to four-time British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone.


Further materials

A brief account of the Foundation is reproduced from Proceedings of the British Academy volume 1.

The British Academy 1902–2002: Some Historical Documents and Notes, published at the time of the British Academy’s centenary in 2002.

From the Archive: curiosities about the British Academy from the basement archive

Read the Charter and Bye-Laws of the British Academy.

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