It receives 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 throughout the year in research grants, awards and charitable activities.
The British Academy was established in 1902 and received its Royal Charter in the same year. It is now a fellowship of more than 900 leading scholars spanning all disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. The Academy is a self-governing and independent registered charity, based at 10–11 Carlton House Terrace in London.
The exterior of the building is used by the popular BBC drama Sherlock. They use the exterior as the "Diogenes Club" location for the show.
The Academy states its fundamental purposes under four headings:
- As a Fellowship composed of distinguished scholars, elected by their peers, it takes a lead in representing the humanities and social sciences, facilitating international collaboration, providing an independent and authoritative source of advice, and contributing to public policy and debate.
- As a learned society, it seeks to foster and promote the full range of work that makes up the humanities and social sciences, including inter- and multi-disciplinary work.
- As a funding body, it supports excellent ideas, individuals and intellectual resources in the humanities and social sciences, enables UK researchers to work with scholars and resources in additional countries, sustains a British research presence in various parts of the world and helps attract overseas scholars to the UK.
- As a national forum for the humanities and social sciences, it supports a range of events, activities and publications (print and electronic) which aim to stimulate curiosity, to inspire and develop future generations of scholars, and to encourage appreciation of the social, economic and cultural value of these disciplines.
The creation of a "British Academy for the Promotion of Historical, Philosophical and Philological Studies" was first proposed in 1899 in order that Britain can be represented at meetings of European and American academies. The organisation, which has after 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.
Since then, a large number of 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 a few 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.
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 .
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; Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s volume covers the years 1949 to 1968.
Election as a Fellow of the British Academy recognises high scholarly distinction in the humanities or social sciences, evidenced by published work. Fellows might use the letters FBA after their names. Fellows are elected into one of the following disciplinary sections:
- Classical Antiquity
- Theology and Religious Studies
- African and Oriental Studies
- Linguistics and Philology
- Early Modern Languages and Literatures
- Modern Languages, Literatures and additional Media
- Medieval Studies
- Early Modern History to c1800
- Modern History from c1800
- History of Art and Music
- Economics and Economic History
- Anthropology and Geography
- Sociology, Demography and Social Statistics
- Political Studies: Political Theory, Government and International Relations
There are additionally three 'ginger groups' to address the specific needs of Management and Business Studies, Education, and Cultural, Communications, Media & Performance Studies.
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 additionally 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%.
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.
The Academy additionally 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 additional parts of the world including Africa, Latin America and South and South East Asia.
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 additional 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 additional relevant organisations.
British Academy Policy Centre
The Centre was established in October 2009 initially funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council from March 2010. It oversees a programme of activity engaging the expertise within the humanities and social sciences to shed light on policy issues.
It produces substantive reports making recommendations on public policy and practice. The Centre's activities additionally include organising policy events and discussions.
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. Most events are free and most take place at the Academy’s headquarters in Carlton House Terrace.
Award of prizes
The British Academy awards a total of 15 Prizes and Medals, most of them awarded annually.
- 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"
- Burkitt Medal, created in 1923
- Kenyon Medal, first awarded in 1957
- Leverhulme Medal and Prize, created in 2002
- Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding, established in 2013
- Peter Townsend Policy Press Prize, created in 2011
- Wiley Prize for Psychology, founded in 2009
Presidents of the British Academy, 1902–present
- The Lord Reay 1902–1907
- Sir Edward Maunde Thompson 1907–1909
- Samuel Henry Butcher 1909–1910
- Sir Adolphus Ward 1911–1913
- The Viscount Bryce 1913–1917
- Sir Frederic Kenyon 1917–1921
- The Earl of Balfour 1921–1928
- H. A. L. Fisher 1928–1932
- John William Mackail 1932–1936
- Sir David Ross 1936–1940
- Sir J. H. Clapham 1940–1946
- Sir Idris Bell 1946–1950
- Sir Charles Kingsley Webster 1950–1954
- Sir George Norman Clark 1954–1958
- Sir Maurice Bowra 1958–1962
- The Lord Robbins 1962–1967
- Sir Kenneth Clinton Wheare 1967–1971
- Sir Denys Lionel Page 1971–1974
- Sir Isaiah Berlin 1974–1978
- Sir Kenneth James Dover 1978–1981
- The Revd Owen Chadwick 1981–1985
- Sir Randolph Quirk 1985–1989
- Sir Anthony Kenny 1989–1993
- Sir Keith Thomas 1993–1997
- Sir Tony Wrigley 1997–2001
- The Viscount Runciman of Doxford 2001–2004
- The Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve 2005–2009
- Sir Adam Roberts 2009–2013
- The Lord Stern of Brentford 2013–
Secretaries of the British Academy, 1902–present
- Sir Israel Gollancz (1902–1930)
- Sir Frederic G. Kenyon GBE, KCB (1930–1949)
- Sir R. E. Mortimer Wheeler CH, CIE, MC (1949–1968)
- Mr Derek Allen, CB (1969–1973)
- Dr N. J. Williams (1973–1977)
- Mr J. P. Carswell, CB (1978–1983)
- Mr P. W. H. Brown, CBE (1983–2006)
- Dr Robin Jackson (2006–2015)
- Alun Evans (2015–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
- Thank-Offering to Britain Fund Lectures
- Archaeological reports (including BAMA)
- British Academy Centenary Monographs
- Miscellaneous research publications
- Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs
- Supplemental Papers
- Anglo-Saxon Charters
- Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi
- Classical and Medieval Logic Texts
- Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture
- Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani
- Corpus vasorum antiquorum
- Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi
- Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources
- Early English Church Music
- English Episcopal Acta
- Fontes Historiae Africanae
- Oriental and African Archives
- Oriental Documents
- Records of Social and Economic History
- Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles
- Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum
- Tabula Imperii Romani