Trinity debating society named world's oldest student society

Trinity Debating Society Named World's Oldest Student Society
Trinity College Dublin’s Historical society, more commonly known as The Hist, has been recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest student society.
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James Cox

Trinity College Dublin’s Historical society, more commonly known as The Hist, has been recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest student society.

The 253-year-old debating society is now officially recognised as the oldest of its kind in the world.


The society was founded on March 21st, 1770, to pursue “speeching, reading, writing and arguing, in Morality, History, Criticism, Politics, and all the useful branches of philosophy".

It precedes the foundations of both the Cambridge (1815) and Oxford (1823) unions, both of which were modelled after it.

It took the Hist two years to prove its longevity. To achieve Guinness World Records recognition, the society had to prove – by photographic evidence and other means - that it had operated without interruption since its establishment.

Independent, expert witness statements in confirming the Hist’s credentials were made by renowned historians Professor Roy Foster of Oxford University and Professor Marianne Elliott of Liverpool University.


Hist Auditor Áine Kennedy said: “We are thrilled at this official recognition of our Society as a seminal institution in student intellectual debate, organisation, and action. 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. I want to acknowledge the time and effort invested by previous auditors into proving our case as the world’s oldest student society and thank our alumni for their unwavering support."

Nick Adams, on behalf of Guinness World Records, said: "On review of the expansive evidence submitted, and with the corroborating expert witness statements from historians Profs Roy Foster and Marianne Elliott, Guinness World Records is pleased to recognise the College Historical Society of Trinity College Dublin as the oldest student society."

To prove the Hist’s case, former auditor Luke Fehily "collated an enormous volume of evidence of the society’s longevity and continuous activity from the extensive records collection of Trinity’s Library".


Mr Fehily also studied contemporary newspaper articles from The Irish Times archive, and historical essays.

"Hunting down the evidence was difficult. At times, the Society had a troubled relationship with the College authorities, particularly when it was led by revolutionaries Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet. The Hist was expelled twice by the College Board, but there was unambiguous evidence that the Society continued to exist and meet during that period."

The Hist will officially receive its Guinness World Records certificate at a celebratory dinner on October 20th.

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