History and Mission

Home About the RAI Governance History and Mission

The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (RAI) is the world’s longest-established scholarly association dedicated to the furtherance of anthropology (the study of humankind) in its broadest and most inclusive sense. The Institute is a non-profit-making registered charity and is entirely independent, with a Director and a small staff accountable to the Council, which in turn is elected annually from the Fellowship. A list of the past Presidents is available here. It has a Royal Patron in the person of HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG, GCVO.

The Royal Anthropological Institute seeks to combine a distinguished tradition of scholarship stretching back over more than 150 years with the active provision of services to contemporary anthropology and anthropologists (including students of anthropology). It has a particular commitment to promoting the public understanding of anthropology, and the contribution of anthropology to public affairs. It publishes journals, has a privileged link with the Anthropology Library (British Museum), has a film and video library and an extensive photographic collection, gives awards for outstanding scholarship, organises lectures and meetings, and manages a number of trust funds for research. The journals circulate throughout the world, and about 70% of subscriptions revenue comes from outside the UK. Other specialist interests are represented through Committees.

The Institute’s regular special lectures comprise the Huxley Memorial Lecture (delivered annually), the Presidential Address (delivered at least once in each presidency) and the Henry Myers and Curl Lectures (given in alternate years). Other special events are organised from time to time, and are widely advertised.

The Institute awards several international prizes, such as the Curl Essay Prize, the Wellcome Medal for Medical Anthropology, the Lucy Mair Medal for Applied Anthropology, and the J.B. Donne Essay Prize in the Anthropology of Art. It administers several Trust funds which award research grants, including the annual Leach/RAI Fellowship, and the annual RAI Fellowship in Urgent Anthropology.

The Institute is funded from subscriptions, from the income on endowments, and other earned income. It has its own freehold building in central London. Council and Committee members and the editorial team of the Institute’s principal journal, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, give their services without remuneration.

A Royal Charter company. Registered in England No. RC000916. Charity Commission no. 1195523. VAT no. 240 3500 18.