British Academy

The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national academy for the humanities and the social sciences. It was established in 1902 and received its royal charter in the same year. It is now a fellowship of more than 1,000 leading scholars spanning all disciplines across the humanities and social sciences and a funding body for research projects across the United Kingdom. The academy is a self-governing and independent registered charity, based at 10–11 Carlton House Terrace in London.

The British Academy
TypeNational academy
Legal statusCharity
HeadquartersLondon, England
Sir David Cannadine

The British Academy is funded with an annual grant from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). In 2014/15 the British Academy's total income was £33,100,000, including £27,000,000 from BIS. £32,900,000 was distributed during the year in research grants, awards and charitable activities.[1]


The academy states that it has five fundamental purposes:

  • To speak up for the humanities and the social sciences
  • To invest in the very best researchers and research
  • To inform and enrich debate around society's greatest questions
  • To ensure sustained international engagement and collaboration
  • To make the most of the Academy's assets to secure the Academy for the future.[2]


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 represented at meetings of European and American academies. The organisation, which has since become simply "the British Academy", was initiated as an unincorporated society on 17 December 1901, and received its Royal Charter from King Edward VII on 8 August 1902.[3]

Since then, many of Britain's most distinguished scholars in the humanities and social sciences have been involved in the life of the academy, including John Maynard Keynes, Isaiah Berlin, C. S. Lewis and Henry Moore.

Until 1927–28 the academy had no premises. Then it moved to some rooms in No. 6 Burlington Gardens. In 1968 it moved the short distance to Burlington House. It subsequently moved to headquarters near Regent's Park. Then in 1998 the Academy moved to its present headquarters in Carlton House Terrace. Overlooking St James's Park, the terrace was designed by John Nash and built in the 1820s and 1830s. Number 10 was formerly the London residence of the Ridley family and number 11 was from 1856 to 1875 the home of Prime Minister William Gladstone.[4]

In March 2010, the academy embarked on a £2.75m project to renovate and restore the public rooms in No. 11, following the departure of former tenant the Foreign Press Association, and link the two buildings together. The work was completed in January 2011 and the new spaces include a new 150-seat Wolfson Auditorium are available for public hire. In addition to offices for its staff 10 - 11 Carlton House Terrace is used for academy conferences and events [5] and parts of the building are available on a private hire basis for events [6]

The history, problems and achievements of the academy have been recorded in works by two of its secretaries. Sir Frederic Kenyon's volume of 37 pages covers the years up to 1951;[7] Sir Mortimer Wheeler's volume covers the years 1949 to 1968.[8]


Election as a Fellow of the British Academy recognises high scholarly distinction in the humanities or social sciences, evidenced by published work. Fellows may use the letters FBA after their names. Fellows are elected into one of the following disciplinary sections:[9]

  • Classical Antiquity
  • Theology and Religious Studies
  • African and Oriental Studies
  • Linguistics and Philology
  • Early Modern Languages and Literatures
  • Modern Languages, Literatures and other Media
  • Archaeology
  • Medieval Studies
  • Early Modern History to c1800
  • Modern History from c1800
  • History of Art and Music
  • Philosophy
  • Culture, Media and Performance
Social Sciences
  • Law
  • Economics and Economic History
  • Anthropology and Geography
  • Sociology, Demography and Social Statistics
  • Political Studies: Political Theory, Government and International Relations
  • Psychology
  • Management and Business Studies

There is also an Education 'ginger group'.

Funding schemes

The British Academy channels substantial public funding into support for individuals and organisations pursuing humanities and social sciences research and scholarship in the UK and overseas. These funding schemes are designed to aid scholars at different stages of their academic career and include postdoctoral fellowships, Wolfson Research Professorships, Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowships, small research grants and British Academy Research Projects.

In addition to its main public funds supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the academy also draws on private funds arising from gifts, legacies, contributions made by fellows and grants from research foundations to support a further range of research activities. In 2014/15, the academy received around £30m to support research and researchers across the humanities and social sciences. Funds available to the academy were invested in the following main areas: research career development; a portfolio of research grant opportunities, and international engagement. The demand and quality of applications submitted for academy funding remains high. This year the academy received around 3,600 applications and made 588 awards to scholars based in around 100 different universities across the UK – a success rate of 16 per cent.

International work

In order to promote the interests of UK research and learning around the world, the Academy works to create frameworks to support international networking and collaboration and develop the role of humanities and social sciences research in tackling global challenges. It draws on expertise from a wide range of sources from within the fellowship and on specialist advice from its seven Area Panels for Africa, China, the Middle East, Europe, South Asia, and Latin America/Caribbean.[10]

The Academy also funds and coordinates a network of overseas institutes which provide local expertise, logistical support and often a working base for UK scholars. These include research institutes in Amman, Ankara, Athens, Jerusalem, Nairobi, Rome and Tehran, as well as UK-based specialist learned societies which run strategic research programmes in other parts of the world including Africa, Latin America and South and South East Asia.[11]

Higher education and research

As the UK's national voice for the humanities and social sciences, the British Academy seeks to promote and protect the interests and health of these disciplines and their research base. It makes independent representations to the government and other bodies on relevant higher education and research issues, contributes statements and submissions to formal consultations and organises a range of policy events and discussions, liaising regularly with learned societies, universities, national academies and other relevant organisations.

British Academy's policy work

The British Academy's Fellowship represents breadth and excellence of expertise across these disciplines, and the Academy's policy work is dedicated to applying that insight to policy issues for public benefit and societal well being. The goal is to enlighten the context, meaning and practicalities of policy challenges. This work is meant to bring independence, authority and objectivity to complex issues, such as public policy, skills, education and research. From reports to small meetings, the British Academy provides a forum for examining issues that are important for the society and the economy.

Public events

The British Academy organises a wide-ranging annual programme of more than 50 public lectures, panel discussions, conferences and seminars showcasing new research and debating topical issues. This includes a number of long-established lecture series, such as the Shakespeare Lecture, first given in 1911.[12] Most events are free and most take place at the Academy's headquarters in Carlton House Terrace[13]

Award of prizes

The British Academy awards a total of 15 prizes and medals, most of them awarded annually.[14]

  • British Academy President's Medal, created in 2010 and awarded to up to five recipients each year who have demonstrated "signal service to the cause of the humanities and social sciences"[15]
  • British Academy Medal, created in 2013 and awarded to up to three recipients each year "for landmark academic achievement in any of the humanities and social science disciplines supported by the Academy"[16]
  • Burkitt Medal, created in 1923[17]
  • Kenyon Medal, first awarded in 1957[18]
  • Leverhulme Medal and Prize, created in 2002[19]
  • Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, established in 2013[20]
  • Peter Townsend Policy Press Prize, created in 2011[21]
  • Wiley Prize in Psychology, first awarded in 2009[22]
  • Wiley Prize in Economics, first awarded in 2013[23]
  • Brian Barry Prize in Political Science, first awarded in 2014[24]
  • Serena Medal, first awarded in 1920[25]
  • Edward Ullendorff Medal, first awarded in 2012[26]
  • Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, first awarded in 1916[27]
  • Grahame Clark Medal, first awarded in 1993[28]
  • Sir Israel Gollancz Prize, first awarded in 1925[29]
  • Landscape Archaeology Medal, first awarded in 2007[30]
  • Neil & Saras Smith Medal for Linguistics, first awarded in 2014[31]
  • Derek Allen Prize, first awarded in 1977[32]

Presidents of the British Academy, 1902–present

Secretaries of the British Academy, 1902–present


Lectures and conferences papers
  • British Academy Original Paperbacks
  • British Academy Occasional Papers
  • Proceedings of the British Academy
  • Reissues of proceedings lectures
  • Schweich Lectures on Biblical Archaeology
  • Symposia
  • Thank-Offering to Britain Fund Lectures
  • Archaeological reports (including BAMA)
  • British Academy Centenary Monographs
  • Miscellaneous research publications
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs
  • Supplemental papers
Research series

See also


  1. British Academy Annual Report 2014–15. Download: "Annual reports". Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  2. British Academy Strategy Plan 2018-2022. Download:"The British Academy Strategic Plan 2018-2022". Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  3. ‘The British Academy 1902–2002: Some Historical Notes and Documents’, British Academy, 2002
  4. Syrett, Karen (31 May 2018). "The Secret History of 10-11 Carlton House Terrace". The British Academy. London.
  7. Frederic G. Kenyon, ‘The British Academy: The First Fifty Years’, foreword by Sir Charles Webster, Oxford University Press, 1952
  8. ‘The British Academy 1949–1968’, Oxford University Press, 1970
  9. "Sections – British Academy". Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  10. "The British Academy International Work".
  11. "British International Research Institutes".
  12. "Shakespeare Lectures".
  13. "The British Academy's events".
  14. "The British Academy's Prizes and Medals".
  15. "The British Academy President's Medal".
  16. "The British Academy Medal".
  17. "Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies".
  18. "Kenyon Medal".
  19. "Leverhulme Medal & Prize".
  20. "Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding".
  21. "Peter Townsend Prize".
  22. "Wiley Prize in Psychology".
  23. "Wiley Prize in Economics".
  24. "Brian Barry Prize in Political Science".
  25. "Serena Medal".
  26. "Edward Ullendorff Medal".
  27. "Rose Mary Crawshay Prize".
  28. "Grahame Clark Medal".
  29. "Sir Israel Gollancz Prize".
  30. "Landscape Archaeology Medal".
  31. "Neil & Saras Smith Medal for Linguistics".
  32. "Derek Allen Prize".
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