The Strange Late Birth of the British Academy

Richard Drayton

in The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780197263266
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734854 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Centenary Monographs

The Strange Late Birth of the British Academy

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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The British Academy was founded in 1902. In November 1899, the Council of the Royal Society sent a letter to prominent scholars suggesting the formation of some body to represent Britain in disciplines other than the natural sciences. A meeting of the scholars gave its support for a suggestion that the Royal Society might give room to literary and human sciences in a special section, or support the foundation of a separate body. For over a year, the Royal Society deliberated, but concluded in June of 1901 that it could neither include the literary sciences within it, nor initiate the establishing of a British academy. It was thus the scientists who provided both stimulus and constraint for the mobilisation of human knowledge in the British Academy and to welcome all branches of intellectual enterprise within one temple.

Keywords: British Academy; Royal Society; natural sciences; literary sciences; human sciences

Chapter.  5104 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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