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Royal Economic Society

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0097 RES
Held at: British Library of Political and Economic Science
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Full title: Royal Economic Society
Date(s): 1890-2005
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 510 boxes + 8 shelves of the Economic Journal
Name of creator(s): Royal Economic Society


Administrative/Biographical history:

Foundation. The Royal Economic Society (RES) was founded in 1890 as the British Economics Association (BEA) with the aim of promoting and encouraging the study of economic science and with the particular objective of publishing an economic journal in Britain. Many prominent British economists were involved in the foundation of the BEA, including Inglis Palgrave, Herbert Foxwell and Alfred Marshall. At the particular urging of Alfred Marshall, membership of the BEA was declared open to all and has been ever since, making the Society not only a learned professional body but also an open society for anyone interested in economics. Members have included prominent academics, businessmen, journalists, clergymen, politicians and civil servants.
Structure. On the initiative of Henry Higgs (Secretary of the Society, 1892-1906), the BEA applied for and was granted a Royal Charter in December 1902 and became the Royal Economic Society. The Charter specifies that there shall be a Council which will be responsible for the 'management and direction of the Society'. It also lays down that 'The Council shall consist of the President, Vice-Presidents, and not less than twenty Councillors; and the Treasurer or Treasurer and the Secretary or Secretaries if honorary'. Many distinguished economists have been associated with the RES throughout its history, as Presidents, Council members, Secretaries, Treasurers and Editors of the Economic Journal. The first two Presidents of the Society were prominent statesmen, namely George Goschen who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and R B Haldance, another prominent politician who remained President of the Society for 22 years. In 1929 the Council re-affirmed an earlier resolution that 'it was considered advisable that as a rule the President should not hold office for more than three years'. In fact, apart from Herbert Foxwell, the term of office of the Society's Presidents was two years until 1986 when a three-year term was introduced. Past Presidents include John Maynard Keynes, William Beveridge, Lionel Robbins, James Meade, Nicholas Kaldor and Richard Stone. In its early years, the day-to-day running of the Society was left to Henry Higgs and F Y Edgeworth (Editor of the Economic Journal, 1892-1906). Among later Secretaries and Editors who also took a prominent part in the administration of the Society's affairs were John Maynard Keynes (1912-1945), Roy Harrod (1945-1961) and Austin Robinson (1945-1971). The retirement of Austin Robinson in 1971 was followed by the decentralisation of the Society's activities as well as significent changes in its administration. These changes were overseen by the then President, Sir Alec Cairncross, and they included the formation of an Executive Committee in 1975. This committee is responsible for the execution of the Society's policy as laid down by the Council (which now meets twice a year) and for the co-ordination of the activities of its officers. Other changes which have taken place include the introduction of a more direct say by members in the composition of the Council and the selection of the President.
The EJ and other Publications. The first Economic Journal (EJ) appeared in 1891. The first page of the first issue stated 'The British Economic Association is open to all schools and parties: no person is excluded because of his opinions. The Economic Journal, issued under the authority of the Association, will be conducted in a similar spirit of toleration'. The EJ has been produced ever since, even during war years, quarterly until 1991 and six times a year since then. Successive editors to 1970 (F Y Edgeworth, J M Keynes, Roy Harrod and Charles Carter) took responsibility for the articles and notes sections: book reviews were handled by separate assistant or joint editors following the appointment of Austin Robinson in 1934. From 1970 onwards the editorship became more collaborative and much greater use began to be made of referees and associate editors. In addition, the Society has produced a Newsletter since 1972; at first this contained mainly information on visiting scholars, appointments and conferences, but it now also publishes short articles of topical interest, correspondence and news about research. The Newsletter is published quarterly. One of the objectives of the Society at its foundation was to make scholarly economic works available to its members, primarily by the reprinting of early tracts, the translation of important foreign works and producing definitive editions of economic texts. Early publications included Quesnay's Tableau Economique; later more ambitious undertakings included the multi-volume editions of the Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo and the Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes. The Keynes Edition was one of the Society's major undertakings from its conception in 1954 to the publication of its final volume in 1989.
Other activities. The RES continues to contribute today to the advancement and dissemination of economic knowledge. The aims and activities of the Society have, however, broadened since 1890. In addition to its publishing activities, the Society contributes to the exchange of ideas in the profession through its Annual Conference, through its support for the standing Conference of Heads of University Departments of Economics (CHUDE) established in 1987 to promote the study and teaching of economics in the UK, and through its Visiting Lectureship scheme. Support for younger members is provided through summer research workshops, the Easter School, junior fellowships and the conference grant scheme. The Society also co-operates with other economic societies both nationally and internationally. It was a founding member of the International Economic Association and of the Confederation of European Economic Associations.


Scope and content/abstract:

Minute books, cash books, ledgers, registers of members and the Seal, 1890-1980; papers relating to the Economic Journal including: management files; correspondence with contributors; and, published and rejected articles; set of the Economic Journal, 1891-2004; Austin Robinson files regarding RES, including a list of fellows (1906), files from the 1940s-1950s, and, files relating to the revision of the bye-laws in 1967; Donald Winch files regarding RES, 1959-2005; 'The works and correspondence of David Ricardo', volumes 1-11, Piero Sraffa with the collaboration of M H Dobb (eds.), 1966.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Listed material is arranged in the following series: 1. The genesis of the Society; 2. Minutes and Policy Papers; 3. Finance; 4. Membership, staff and officeholders; 5. Economic Journal: editorial and policy; 6. Economic Journal: correspondence with contributors; 7. Economic Journal: technical; 8. Publications: editorial policy; 9. Publications: Keynes edition; 10. Publications: other titles; 11. Enquiries and reports; 12. Miscellaneous activities; 13. Relationship with other bodies; 14. RES print; 15. Former handlists; 16. Additional material; 17. Additional material (2)

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

Most items can be photocopied, subject to handling and copyright restrictions. No material may be published without the prior permission of both the copyright holder and the Library. All applications for publication must be made to the Archivist in the first instance, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue available from Archives staff.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by the RES and its officers in many deposits of varying sizes. Some were subsequently given some sort of listing by the Archives and some arrived with or subsequently acquired rough lists done by the depositor. All the old lists have been kept so users can trace material through them, but the old file references are now obsolete.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Copied from LSE Archives CALM database by Anna Towlson.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Apr 2008

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