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Our History

The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland was founded by the eminent Sanskrit scholar, Henry Thomas Colebrooke, on the 15th March 1823. It received its Royal Charter from King George IV on the 11th August 1824 ‘for the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia‘.

Many distinguished scholars have been members of the Society, including Sir Richard Burton (1821-90), the noted explorer and translator of One Thousand and One Nights and the Kama Sutra; Sir Aurel Stein (1862-1943), the renowned archaeologist of the ‘Silk Road’ and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the famous Bengali writer and poet.

What The Society Has To Offer

The Society provides a forum for those who are interested in the history, languages, cultures and religions of Asia to meet and exchange ideas. It offers lectures and seminars and it provides facilities for research and publishing.

The Library: This contains books and journals on a wide variety of subjects concerning Asia. All collections are on closed access, so material is brought to visitors in the reading room. Fellows of the Society are able to borrow modern books. Students and researchers are welcome to consult material.

The Collections: These include Persian, Arabic, Pali, Sanskrit, Malay and Javanese manuscripts. There is also an important collection of paintings, prints and drawings generously donated by fellows as well as photographs and slides, maps, personal papers, special collections, and institutional archives. Loans are frequently made to exhibitions.

Publications: The Society has an active publication programme in association with several publishers including Edinburgh University Press, Routledge Curzon, Gingko Library, National University of Singapore Press, and Cambridge University Press.

The Journal: This has been published since 1834 and is produced four times a year. It has an international reputation and is published for the Society by Cambridge University Press.

Lectures and Symposia: The Society organises a monthly lecture series covering a wide range of topics. Symposia and study days are arranged from time to time in areas that reflect the interests of the Society and its fellows.

Membership: The Society welcomes fellowship applications from anyone with an interest in Asian Studies. Fellows receive the journal four times a year and may make full use of the resources and facilities of the Society.

Venue Hire: The Society’s premises are available for hire for lectures, meetings and conferences.