Royal African Society

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African Society dinner. Photograph by Swaine, 1931

The Royal African Society of the United Kingdom was founded in 1901 to promote relations between the United Kingdom and Africa. In addition to producing its journal African Affairs (ISSN 0368-4016, formerly Journal of the African Society), the Society promotes conferences and meetings. It is based in London. In the 1960s it was considered a social "club for old colonials."[1]


The establishment of the society in 1901 grew out of the travels of Mary Kingsley, an English writer and explorer who travelled to Africa several times in the 1890s and greatly influenced European study of Africa. In 1893, Kingsley travelled to Luanda, Angola, where she lived with the indigenous peoples to learn their customs. In 1895 she returned to study cannibal tribes, travelled up the Ogooué River collecting specimens of previously undiscovered fish, and became the first European to climb Mount Cameroon. Upon her return to England, Kingsley upset many people, particularly the Church of England: she criticized missionaries, and supported many traditional aspects of African life, most controversially the practice of polygamy. Kingsley wrote that a "black man is no more an undeveloped white man than a rabbit is an undeveloped hare".[2] The Royal African Society was formed to commemorate and continue Kingsley's work.

The society administers the African Studies Association of the UK (est. 1963).[3]

Cultural iniatives[edit]

In 2008, the RAS supported the launch of a London African Film Festival, in co-operation with Africa at the Pictures, and subsequently established the annual festival "Film Africa".[4] In 2009, the RAS launched the African Arguments Book Series, published by ZED books, which was followed by an online blogging platform, African Arguments Online.[5] In 2012, the RAS established an annual literature festival called "Africa Writes".[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Donnelly Fage (1989). "British African Studies since the Second World War: A Personal Account". African Affairs. 88. JSTOR 722694. 
  2. ^ Mary H. Kingsley (1897). Travels in West Africa; Congo Français, Corisco and Cameroons. 
  3. ^ "About Us". African Studies Association of the UK. Retrieved 30 August 2017. 
  4. ^ Film Africa.
  5. ^ African Arguments.
  6. ^ "A History", Royal African Society.
  7. ^ Africa Writes.

External links[edit]