The College Historical Society (the Hist) has been recognised as the world’s oldest student society by the Guinness World Records (GWR).
This recognition comes after a two-year campaign as the society proved through photographic and archival evidence that it had run without interruption since its foundation on 21 March 1770.
Professors Roy Foster of Oxford University and Marianne Elliott of Liverpool University confirmed the historical credentials of the society.
The Hist’s foundation came before both the Cambridge (1815) and Oxford (1823) University debating societies.
Auditor of the Hist Áine Kennedy told Trinity News the Hist collected “an enormous volume of evidence of the society’s longevity and continuous activity from extensive records”, including library and newspaper records.
“Hunting down the evidence was not without its difficulties,” she said. “The Hist was expelled twice by the College Board [in 1794 and 1815], but there was unambiguous evidence that the society continued to exist and meet during that period.”
The Hist was founded based on inspiration from Edmund Burke’s Club of 1747 and sought to cultivate “History, Oratory, and Composition” and has sought to explore and debate topical issues in Ireland and internationally since.
Notable former members of the society include Theobald Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, Henry Grattan, writers Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett and former Irish President Mary Robinson.
Kennedy said the Hist is “thrilled at this official recognition” from the GWR.
“The Hist continues to devote itself to learning lessons from the past and discussing the most pressing issues of our day.”
“This achievement demonstrates a remarkable tradition of encouraging student voices, radical discourse, and oratorical excellence. For over two and a half centuries, the Hist has continued to cultivate these ideals.”
“Everyone here at the Hist is absolutely thrilled with our official recognition from Guinness World Records and incredibly excited for the celebrations we have planned in October!” Kennedy went on to say.
The Hist was founded under the premise of promoting “speaking, reading, writing and arguing, in morality, history, criticism, politics, and all the useful branches of philosophy”.
The Guinness World Records certificate will be officially awarded to the Hist on October 20 at a celebratory dinner in the Dining Hall.
This dinner will be part of a week of events held by the Hist which will also include a debate on the motion “This House Would Break Up the United Kingdom” on October 18 and The Future of University Education panel discussion in the Exam Hall on October 20.
Upcoming guests of the Hist include Hugh Grant, Rory Stewart, and Professor Lea Ypi.