25 September 2020

Free Exchange: Anton Howes on the Society that shaped modern Britain


Not many organisations can claim to have had Adam Smith, Edmund Burke and Karl Marx as members. Then again, not many organisations are anything like the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce – better known today as the RSA.

For over 260 years Its mission has been nothing short of improving an entire nation – funding inventions, encouraging trade, planting millions of trees, putting on the Great Exhibition and creating Britain’s first exam board. And int hat time it has been a hotbed of utilitarianism, a home to conservatives, radicals and even the founding father of communism.

Who better to discuss this fascinating, intensely colourful history than Anton Howes, the RSA’s house historian, whose history of the Society, Arts and Minds, was released in May.

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John Ashmore is Editor of CapX.