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British Academy

British Academy. In response to a resolve for a world-wide Association of Scientific and Literary Academies (Wiesbaden, 1899), the British Academy was established in 1901 to promote ‘Historical, Philosophical and Philological Studies’. It soon received a royal charter, but many years passed before it affected the humanities' world as the Royal Society did science. Despite endowments for periodical lectures, published in annual Proceedings, it contented itself with achieved eminence rather than new ideas and rising scholars; no government support came until 1924, nor permanent quarters (Burlington Gardens) until 1927, and Beatrice Webb, the first elected woman fellow (1932), found it ‘a funny little body of elderly and aged men’. By the mid-1940s it was moribund, choked by age, complacent, and out of touch, but under Sir Charles Webster (president, 1950–4) and Mortimer Wheeler (secretary), efficiency and scope slowly broadened: by 1970 it had active research committees, funds to support and encourage younger scholars, an improved government grant, new premises in Burlington House, foreign exchanges, and domestic partnerships. More recent reorganization (language and literature; history and archaeology; philosophy, law, and social sciences) has been accompanied by schemes for the support of advanced scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.

A. S. Hargreaves

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