Building on 150 years of RCS history
On 26 June 1868, a group of individuals in London established a ‘literary and scientific body’ dedicated to the greater understanding of what were then British colonies. A year later it was granted a Royal Charter from Queen Victoria, elevating it to the level of other Royal Societies. The Society became increasingly progressive in the early decades of the twentieth century, admitting women as members from 1922, and encouraging a young and diverse membership. It was given its present name, The Royal Commonwealth Society, in 1958.
In 2018, after a number of name and venue changes, The Royal Commonwealth Society, with its 60+ branches worldwide, will be celebrating its 150th year as the oldest and largest organisation dedicated to the Commonwealth.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, the Society became a centre for the exchange of ideas and provided a platform for a number of notable African leaders in their drive to defeat apartheid. These included Ghana’s first Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah in 1957, Nelson Mandela in 1990, Thabo Mbeki and Desmond Tutu.
In 1993 a national appeal was launched to save the RCS’ archive and extensive library collections which were then gifted to Cambridge University which maintains them as one of its Special Collections to this day.
Over the years, the role of the Society has evolved to meet the changing nature of the Commonwealth. Today, the Society continues its 150 year track record of championing international debate and action and providing a vibrant and valuable international network. Active in recognising and supporting young leaders, creating pan-Commonwealth youth, education and environmental programmes, the Society, through all its activity, promotes the value of the modern Commonwealth and the values upon which it is based.
The Society is independent of government and works on behalf of all Commonwealth citizens.