History of the Society

The Prehistoric Society was founded as the regional ‘East Anglian Society of Prehistorians’ in 1908 and by 1911 had over one hundred members. In this same year, the first journal, The Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia, was published.

In 1914 – with now over 200 members –, the Society funded its first excavation at the Neolithic flint mines of Grimes Graves. In that year, the Society even boasted its first female President in Palaeolithic specialist Nina Layard. From 1923, the Society began to meet in London, meeting in the Society of Antiquaries of London from 1930. By now the Society had outgrown its East Anglian name and was a truly international organisation.

On 23rd February 1935, a change in name to ‘The Prehistoric Society’ was proposed by Grahame Clark. In an increasingly scientific age, a national society was seen by Clark as ‘a contribution towards the much-desired rationalisation of the subject in this country’, and this statement was very much supported by a new generation of professional prehistorians including Charles Phillips, Christopher Hawkes, and Stuart Piggott. This new phase began under the presidency of Vere Gordon Childe (Fig. 6), with Clark as Proceedings editor until 1970.

The Society continued to grow, and by 1947 had held its first study. In 1963, Stuart Piggott's presidential address spoke of the society as a body concerned with setting and maintaining high standards in archaeology, as well as providing ‘a bridge between professional scholarship and the general public’.

The 1980s saw regular annual conferences in London, and in 1982, the Society's archive was rediscovered at the British Museum – papers going back to 1908 are now safely lodged at the University of Bradford. In 1986, we established our successful newsletter: PAST.

Since 1990, we have contributed to the funding of more than 300 research, conference, and study awards projects in the UK and abroad, be they survey, excavation or collections analysis. Annual regional conferences and meetings have also been added to our activities.

Today, 25% of our membership is from outside the UK (in 40 different countries) and the Prehistoric Society remains a key route to discovering prehistory, both at home and abroad. Our elected council represents the best in UK experts, and an active social media presence allows us to reach a worldwide audience.