The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, commonly known as the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS), was established, according to its royal charter
of 11 August 1824, to further "the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia." From its incorporation the society has been a forum, through lectures, its journal, and other publications, for scholarship relating to Asian culture and society of the highest level. It is the United Kingdom
's senior learned society
in the field of Asian studies. Fellows of the society
are elected regularly. Fellows include highly accomplished and notable scholars of Asian studies. They use the post-nominal letters ''FRAS''.
[The Oxford Dictionary of Abbreviations, 2nd edition, Market House Books Ltd and Oxford University Press, 1998, ed. Judy Pearsall, Sara Tulloch et. al., p. 175] [Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage 2011, Debrett's Peerage Ltd, p. 26] [The International Who's Who of Women 2002, 3rd edition, ed. Elizabeth Sleeman, Europa Publications, p. xi] [Who's Who in Malaysia and Singapore, John Victor Morais, 1973, p. 423]
The society was founded in London in 1823, with the first general meeting being held on 15 March at the Thatched House on St James's Street
, London, chaired by Henry Thomas Colebrooke
. This meeting elected the officers (including Charles Williams-Wynn
as the first president) and council, defined that the name of the society was the Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and that members should be designated Members of the Asiatic Society (MAS). It also empowered the council to frame regulations (these were approved at the next general meeting on 19 April), to look for a suitable site for the society's meetings, and to seek a charter of incorporation. Later that year, at a general meeting held on 7 June, Williams-Wynn announced that King George IV
, who had already agreed to be patron of the society, had granted the title of "Royal" to the society, giving it the name of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland and its members the designation Members of the Royal Asiatic Society (MRAS). The society received its charter under that name on 11 August 1824.
The RAS was established by a group primarily composed of notable scholars and colonial administrators. It was intended to be the British counterpart to the Asiatic Society of Calcutta
, which had been founded in 1784 by the noted Sanskrit
scholar and jurist Sir William Jones
. A leading figure in the foundation of the RAS was Henry Thomas Colebrooke
, who was himself an important Sanskrit scholar, and one time President of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta. Another was Sir George Staunton, 2nd Baronet
, a Chinese-speaking diplomat who had worked in China.
When the Oriental Club
of London was formed in 1824, membership of the RAS was stated as one of the four qualifications for membership of the new club.
Due to the nature of the society's close connection with the British Empire
in the east, much of the work originating with the society has been focused on topics concerning the Indian subcontinent
. However, the purview of the Society extends far beyond India: all of Asia
and into Islam
ic North Africa
, and Ethiopia
are included. The Society does have a few limitations on its field on interest, such as recent political history and current affairs. This particular moratorium led to the founding of the Central Asian Society, which later became the Royal Society for Asian Affairs
. After World War II
, with the gradual end of British political hegemony 'east of Suez
', the Society maintained its disinterested academic focus on Asia.
Originally, members of the society were styled Members (MRAS), Honorary Members (Hon. MRAS), Corresponding Members (CMRAS) and Foreign Members (FMRAS).
By the 1870s, the post-nominal letters ''FRAS'', indicating fellowship of the society, were being used by some members, including the physician and writer on India John Forbes Watson
, and the writer on India and co-founder of the India Reform Society John Dickinson
. This usage continued through the twentieth century, advertisements in the Society's Journal also reflecting the use of the letters ''FRAS'' by some members, although all members of the society were referred to as "members" in the 1908 constitution, and it was not until 1967 that reports of the Anniversary Meeting referred to "fellows" rather than "members". , members are designated "fellows" or "student fellows"; no post-nominals are assigned by the society to these grades in its regulations, but the use of the post-nominal letters ''FRAS'' is recognized in numerous reference works.
The post-nominal letters are used by some academics working in Asia-related fields, and have been used in the society's journal in reference to the Indologist Dr Michael D. Willis
, and to the poet and translator of Bengali Dr William Radice
and the Islamic scholar Leonard Lewisohn
Notable members and fellows of the society have included Rabindranath Tagore
, Sir Aurel Stein
, Sir Wilfred Thesiger
, and George V. Tsereteli
The society is affiliated with associate societies in India (Calcutta
, Bangalore, Madras
, and Bihar), the former branch in Mumbai now being known as the Asiatic Society of Mumbai
It is also affiliated with the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka
, the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch
(established in 1847), the Asiatic Society of Japan
(established in 1875), the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
(established in 1877), and Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch
(established in 1900).
In China, the former South China Branch is now known as the Hong Kong Branch. The North China branch has been re-established in 2006 in Shanghai
as the Royal Asiatic Society China
, the original branch having been founded in 1857 and dissolved in 1952. It has chapters in Suzhou
The ''Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
'' (''JRAS'') is published by Cambridge University Press
four times a year, each issue containing a number of scholarly essays, and several book reviews. It has been published under its current name since 1991, having previously been the ''Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland'' (1834–1991) and ''Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland'' (1824–1834). The present editor of the journal is Dr Sarah Ansari
of Royal Holloway, University of London
. The Executive Editor is Charlotte de Blois. The society also regularly publishes historical manuscripts, and monographs of the highest academic quality on numerous topics.
Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland
This fund was initially established in 1828. The results of its initial funding projects were soon forthcoming. The Fund became one of a large number of Victorian subscription printing clubs which published translations, re-issued historical works or commissioned original books which were too specialized for commercial publication; but unlike most of those now defunct organizations, the work of the Royal Asiatic Society Oriental Translation Fund is on-going into the 21st century with a "new series" and "old series" microform catalog available for scholarly research.
Currently (2018–21), the President of the Society is Professor Anthony Stockwell
and the vice-president is Dr. B. Brend.
* 2018- Anthony Stockwell
* 2015-2018 Gordon Johnson
* 2012–2015 Peter Robb
* 2009–2012 Gordon Johnson
* 2006–2009 Anthony Stockwell
* 2003–2006 Francis Robinson
* 2000–2003 Anthony Stockwell
* 1997–2000 Francis Robinson
* 1993–?1997 David W. MacDowall
* 1990–1993 Prof. Adrian David Hugh Bivar
* 1988–1990 Frank Steele
* 1979–1988 Sir Cyril Philips
* 1976-1979 Charles Fraser Beckingham
* 1973–1976 Prof. E.H.S. Simmonds
* 1970–1973 Basil William Robinson
* 1967–1970 Charles Fraser Beckingham
* 1964–1967 Prof. Sir Harold Walter Bailey
* 1961–1964 Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt
* 1958–1961 Gerard L.M. Clauson
* 1955–1958 Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt
* 1952–1955 Sir Ralph Lilley Turner
* 1949–1952 Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt] [
* 1946–1949 The Earl of Scarbrough
* 1943–1946 Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt] [
* 1940-1943 Viscount Samuel
* 1939-1940 The Marquess of Willingdon
* 1937–1939 Malcolm Hailey, 1st Baron Hailey
* 1934–1937 David Samuel Margoliouth
* 1931–1934 Edward Douglas Maclagan ] [
* 1928–1931 Lawrence Dundas, 2nd Marquess of Zetland
* 1925–1928 Edward Douglas Maclagan ]
* 1922-1925 Lord Chalmers
* 1921–1922 Sir Richard Carnac Temple, 2nd Baronet
* 1893–1921 Donald James Mackay, 11th Lord Reay
* 1890–1893 Thomas George Baring
* 1887–1890 Thomas Francis Wade
* 1884–1887 William Muir
* 1882–1884 Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere (2nd term)
* 1881 Sir Thomas Edward Colebrooke [
* 1878–1881 Henry Creswicke Rawlinson
* 1875–1878 Sir Thomas Edward Colebrooke] [
* 1872–1875 Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere
* 1869–1871 Henry Creswicke Rawlinson
* 1867–1869 Percy Smythe, 8th Viscount Strangford
* 1864–1867 Sir Thomas Edward Colebrooke]
* 1861–1864 Percy Smythe, 8th Viscount Strangford
* 1858 William Henry Sykes
* 1855–1858 Horace Hayman Wilson
* 1852–1855 William Baring, 2nd Baron Ashburton
* 1849–1852 Lord Ellesmere
* 1843–1849 Earl of Auckland
* 1842–1843 Lord Fitzgerald and Vesey (died in office)
* 1841–1842 George Augustus Frederick Fitzclarence (died in office)
* 1823–1841 Charles Williams-Wynn
*Fellows of The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
*Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
*Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka
*Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch
*Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch
*Royal Asiatic Society China
Some Society publications
*"Charter of Incorporation of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland." ''Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.'' pp 25–27, 1957.
*Beckingham, C.F. ''Centenary Volume of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1823-1923.'' Pargiter, F.E. (ed.) Published by the Society, 1923, London.
*Mashita, Hiroyuki. ''Theology, Ethics and Metaphysics: Royal Asiatic Society Classics of Islam.'' Routledge Publishing, 2003.
*Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. B. W. Robinson. ''Persian Paintings in the Collection of the Royal Asiatic Society'' Routledge, 1998.
*Rost, Reinhold. "Miscellaneous Papers Relating to Indo-China and the Indian Archipelago" Reprinted for the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, from the "Journals" of the Royal Asiatic, Bengal Asiatic, and Royal Geographical Societies; the "Transactions" and "Journal" of the Asiatic Society of Batavia ... Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland Malayan Branch Published by Trübner & co., 1887.
*Tritton, Arthur Stanley. ''Muslim Theology...'' Royal Asiatic Society by Luzac, 1947.
* Winternitz, Moriz (compiled), Frederick William Thomas (appendix). ''A Catalogue of South Indian Sanskrit Manuscripts: Especially Those of the Whish Collection Belonging to the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.'' Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland Library. Whish Collection, 1902.
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
*Leyden, John. (2013)
Miscellaneous Papers Relating to Indo-China and the Indian Archipelago, Reprinted for the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.
London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1886)
References relating to the Society and noted Fellows
*Finn, Elizabeth Anne McCaul. ''Reminiscences of Mrs. Finn, Member of the Royal Asiatic Society.'' Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1929.
*Hunter, William Wilson. ''Life of Brian Houghton Hodgson: British Resident at the Court of Nepal, Member of the Institute of France; Fellow of the Royal Society; a Vice-president of the Royal Asiatic Society, Etc.'' J. Murray, 1896.
*Simmonds, Stuart, Simon Digby. "The Royal Asiatic Society: its history and treasures": ''In commemoration of the sesquicentenary year of the foundation of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.'' E. J. Brill, 1979.
*Skrine, Francis Henry, William Wilson Hunter. ''Life of Sir William Wilson Hunter, K.C.S.I., M.A., LL.D., a Vice-president of the Royal Asiatic Society.'' Longmans, Green, and Co., 1901.
*Taintor, Edward C. "The Aborigines of Northern Formosa: A Paper Read Before the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society." Customs Press: Shanghai, 18 June 1874.
Royal Asiatic Society website
*Charter of Incorporation of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Hong Kong branch
North China Branch Journal
(Full texts of older editions online.)
South Korean branch
Sri Lanka branch
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