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British Psychological Society Archive

  • British Psychological Society (est.1901)
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


British Psychological Society records relating to the activities, structure, history and administration of the Society.



Physical description

53 boxes, 10 oversize boxes (this is the volume of material actually available at Wellcome Library, further material is retained by the BPS)


The records are arranged into Sections and Series reflecting the historical sub-system and administrative structures of the parent body.

BPS/1 British Psychological Society Internal:

BPS/1/1 Minutes (of General Meetings)
BPS/1/2 Minutes (of General Meetings)
BPS/1/3 Central (mainly Council minutes)
BPS/1/4 Committees of the BPS
BPS/1/5 BPS Examination Boards
BPS/1/6 BPS Events
BPS/1/7 Finance, I.T. and Premises
BPS/1/8 Funds
BPS/1/9 Membership and Subscriptions
BPS/1/10 Miscellaneous I
BPS/1/11 Miscellaneous II
BPS/1/12 Publications and Publishing
BPS/1/13 Workshops
BPS/1/14 Working Parties
BPS/1/15 Annual Reports and Royal Charter (held by the BPS. See also 1/3/13)
BPS/1/16-18 BPS Scrapbooks

BPS/2 British Psychological Society Sub-Systems: (not yet available; large proportion of this section retained by the BPS)

BPS/2/1 BPS Branches
BPS/2/2 BPS Divisions
BPS/2/3 BPS Sections
BPS/2/4 Special Groups

BPS/3 Child Study Society London and associated bodies

BPS/4 Various Miscellaneous: individuals and printed material

BPS/5 Tests (this section retained by the BPS)

The British Psychological Society archive also comprises a number of collections of personal papers and some papers of organisations that have been presented to the society over a period of years. The collection catalogues (with a few exceptions which are retained by the BPS) can be browsed by searching on name or the reference. They are as follows:

PSY/APU MRC Applied Psychology Unit Pamphlets, Reprints and Projects (deposited in the British Library by the BPS)
PSY/ATP Association for Teaching Psychology
PSY/BRD Broadbent, Donald
PSY/BUR Burt, Sir Cyril Lodowic (retained by the BPS)
PSY/CHE Cherns, Albert
PSY/DAV Davidson, May Alison
PSY/DUN Duncan, David C.
PSY/EDW Edwards, Elwyn
PSY/GRA Rawlings, Grace
PSY/HAN Handyside, John Duncan
PSY/HAW Haward, Lionel
PSY/HEA Hearnshaw, Leslie Spencer
PSY/HOL Holdstock, Leonard
PSY/HUN Hunter, Ian
PSY/ING Ingham John 'Jack'
PSY/KEN Kenna, John Corbett
PSY/LIV Liverpool University
PSY/MCK McKellar, Peter
PSY/MYE Myers, Charles Samuel
PSY/NAT Nathan, Esphir
PSY/ONR US OFfice of Naval Research (retained by the BPS)
PSY/RAV Raven, John Carlyle
PSY/SEM Semeonoff, Boris
PSY/SNM Study for the Study of Normal Man / Psychology (retained by the BPS)
PSY/SPE Spearman, Charles Edward
PSY/STE Steer, D. P.
PSY/SUM Summerfield, Sir Arthur
PSY/TAJ Tajfel, Henri
PSY/TOL Leytham, G. W.: Papers relating to E. C. Tolman
PSY/USX The University of Sussex Psychological Test Collection (retained by the BPS)
PSY/VAL Valentine, Charles Wilfred
PSY/WLN Walton, Donald
PSY/WOL Wolff, Charlotte
PSY/YAT Yates, Aubrey James

Acquisition note

Deposited in the Wellcome Library by the British Psychological Society in February 2009.

Some records in this collection are still retained by the BPS. See Section level records PSY/BPS/1 and 4 for full details.

PSY/BPS/2 is largely still retained by the BPS. Contact the BPS or Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library, for further details.

PSY/BPS/5 is entirely still retained by the BPS. Contact the BPS for further details.

Biographical note

A Short History of The British Psychological Society

The Psychological Society was founded on 24 October 1901 at University College London. Its aim was 'to advance scientific psychological research, and to further the co-operation of investigators in the various branches of Psychology.' The ten founders resolved 'that only those who are recognised teachers in some branch of psychology or who have published work of recognisable value be eligible as members'. As the Society's first historian later recalled, the change of name to The British Psychological Society in 1906 'was not due to any sudden uprising of imperial pride, but to the fact that members had discovered another body of persons who were using the former title. To prevent confusion with this unacademic group the change in title was agreed to.' (Edgell, 1947: 116).

Membership increased steadily until the First World War. Upon his return from serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps in November 1918, the then editor of the British Journal of Psychology initiated changes that would have revolutionary consequences for British psychology. An advisor to the journal since its creation by James Ward and W. H. R. Rivers in 1904, Charles Myers had become its sole editor in 1914, the year in which it was acquired by the British Psychological Society.

Myers suggested that the Society should support sections for specialised aspects of applied psychology, noting that medical, industrial and educational psychology groups were already moving to establish separate organizations. Following the acceptance of his proposal that anyone merely 'interested in psychology' (not just recognised scholars or teachers) should be allowed to join, by the end of 1920 membership had increased to over 600. Myers was duly elected the Society's first President.

Note: In February 1919 rules were altered to change the Executive Committee to a Council and the office of President was established

Although the 1919 reforms brought 'a welcome release from the genteel penury of the past' (Lovie, 2001), they also initiated a long-running debate between the Society's professional and scientific constituencies. As the century continued, opportunities increased for psychologists working in more areas of life, including health, education, work and the law. The Society restructured a number of times, forming various divisions, boards, committees and sub-systems to accommodate members' many interests.

A register of professional psychologists was set up in the 1930s. The Society was Incorporated in 1941. The Quarterly Bulletin of the British Psychological Society was launched in 1948. Its editor was Frederick Laws, a journalist with the News Chronicle. Membership of the British Psychological Society stood at 1,897 in 1950, rising only to 2,655 in 1960. By 1982 the Society had a membership of more than 10,000. It now stands at over 36,000 [2004].

The Society was granted a Royal Charter in 1965. On December 18, 1987, at Buckingham Palace, the Queen granted amendments to the Charter, thereby allowing the Society to maintain a Register of Chartered Psychologists. Reforms during the last few years have radically altered the the organizational structure once again. The Society's main administrative offices had moved to Leicester in the 1970s. With the purchase of additional offices in London in 2000, the British Psychological Society symbolically returned to the city in which it was founded almost a century before.

Founding members:

Sully, James (1842-1923], MA Professor

Smith, William George, MA. PhD (1866-1972) lecturer

Sully and Smith met with the following persons at University College London to form a psychological society (24 October 1901) which became the British Psychological Society in 1906:

Jones-Armstrong, Robert (1859-1943), CBE, MD, FRCP, FRCS physician

Bryant, Sophie (1850-1922), DSc., DLitt. headmistress

Gibson Boyce, William Ralph, MA, DSc.(1869-1935) lecturer

Hales, Frank Noel, BA (1878-1952) scholar

McDougall, William, MA, DSc., MD, FRS (1871-1938) experimental psychologist

Mott, Frederick Walter, KBE, MD, FRCP, LLD, FRS (1853-1926) pathologist

Rivers, William Halse Rivers, MA, MD, FRS (1864-1922) lecturer

Shand, Alexander Faulkner, MA. (1858-1936) barrister

Presidents of The British Psychological Society 1920-2008: (subject to revision)

1920 to 1923 C. S. Myers (No Presidential Address)

1923 to 1926 C. E. Spearman (No Presidential Address)

1926 to 1929 F. Aveling (No Presidential Address)

1929 to 1932 Beatrice Edgell (No Presidential Address)

1932 to 1935 J. C. Flugel (No Presidential Address)

1935 to 1938 J. Drever (Primus) "The Status and Qualifications of Professional Psychologists" 14/12/1935

1938 to 1941 A. W. Wolters (No Presidential Address)

1941 to 1943 C. Burt "British Psychology in War-time" published as "Psychology in War": The Military Work of American & German Psychologists" Occupational Psychology. XVII.25-43, 1943

1943 to 1944 T. H. Pear "Social Differences in English Education" British Journal of Educational Psychology, 14. 113-28, 1944

1944 to 1945 M. Culpin "Psychology in Medicine", 7/4/1944

1945 to 1946 G. H. Thomson "Factorial Analysis Recent Advances and a Retrospect" 13/4/1946

1946 to 1947 R. J. Bartlett "Mind." Quarterly Bulletin of the British Psychological Society 1. 14-24. 1948

1947 to 1948 C. W. Valentine "Some President-Day Trends, Dangers and Possibilities in in the Field of Psychology". British Journal of Educational Psychology, 18. 134-47, 1948

1948 to 1949 S. J. F. Philpott "Fluctuations in Mental Output". Quarterly Bulletin of the British Psychological Society 1. No.7, 264-80, 1950

1949 to 1950 R. H. Thouless "The Place of Theory in Experimental Psychology". British Journal of Psychology 46. 14-24, 1950

1950 to 1951 F. C. Barlett "Changing Scene". British Journal of Psychology 47, 181-87, 1956

1951 to 1952 W. Brown "Mind, Medicine & Mathematics."

1952 to 1953 C. A. Mace"A Psychologist's Approach to the Theory of Values." in British Journal of Psychology 44, 200-210, 1953 as "Homeostasis, Needs & Values."

1953 to 1954 A. R. Knight "The British Psychological Society: Problems and Prospects." Bulletin of the British Psychological Society No.24, 1-8, Sep.1954

1954 to 1955 P.E.Vernon "The Psychology of Intelligence" and G." Bulletin of the British Psychological Society No.26, 1-14, May 1955

1955 to 1956 L. S. Hearnshaw "Temporal Integration and Behaviour." Bulletin of the British Psychological Society No. 30, 1-20, Sep 1956

1956 to 1957 E. B. .Strauss "The Anatomy of Treachery." Bulletin of the British Psychological Society No.32, 1-13, May,1957

1957 to 1958 A.Rodger "Psychologists: Non-Medical and Medical." Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, No.36, 1-11. Sep 1958

1958 to 1959 Magdalen D. Vernon "Experimental Psychology in Britain". Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, No.38, 1-13, Sep 1959

1959 to 1960 F. V. Smith "Social Theory and the Basic Motives". Bulletin of the British Psychological Society No.42, 1-22, Sep 1960

1960 to 1961 J. Drever (Secundus)

1961 to 1962 E. A. Peel

1962 to 1963 G. C. Drew

1963 to 1964 A. Summerfield

1964 to 1965 D. E. Broadbent

1965 to 1966 G. Westby

1966 to 1967 G. Rawlings

1967 to 1968 G. Seth

1968 to 1969 B. Semeonoff

1969 to 1970 R. J. Audley

1970 to 1971 H. Gwynne Jones

1971 to 1972 H. Kay

1972 to 1973 M. Hamilton

1973 to 1974 B. M. Foss

1974 to 1975 O. L. Zangwill

1975 to 1976 J. Tizard

1976 to 1977 M. A. Davidson

1977 to 1978 A. D. B. Clarke

1978 to 1979 P. M. Levy

1979 to 1980 P. H. Venables

1980 to 1981 K. J. Connolly

1981 to 1982 D. E. Blackman

1982 to 1983 R. R. Hetherington

1983 to 1984 H. Beloff

1984 to 1985 C. I. Howarth

1985 to 1986 R. M. Farr

1986 to 1987 D. Legge

1987 to 1988 L. S. Pearson

1989 to 1990 M. A. Gale

1990 to 1991 P. E. Morris

1991 to 1992 F. N. Watts

1992 to 1993 E. Miller

1993 to 1994 A. M. Colley

1994 to 1995 G. Lindsay

1995 to 1996 S. Newstead

1996 to 1997 M. V. McAllister

1997 to 1998 C. N. Cullen

1998 to 1999 I. C. Lunt

1999 to 2000 P. Frankish

2000 to 2001 T. MacKay

2001 to 2002 V. G. Bruce

2002 to 2003 G. Davey

2003 to 2004 A. Wedderburn

2004 to 2005 K. Brown

2005 to 2006 G. Powell

2006 to 2007 R. Miller

2007 to 2008 P. Maras

Terms of use

The material is available in the Rare Materials Room subject to the usual conditions of access. Some files have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

This collection contains uncatalogued material which is currently unavailable to researchers. We regret that we are unable to provide access to this material. For more information, please contact the Archives and Manuscripts department.


Accruals note

The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future:

15 transfer boxes of additional institutional records, c.1980s, received February 2009 (acc. 1645).

1 large box of additional institutional records, c.1980s, received May 2009 (acc. 1663).

Further accruals are expected.

Ownership note

Material originally collected and housed for the the British Psychological Society archives by John C. Kenna, first BPS Honorary Archivist (1956-1979). His successor Dr A Lovie held the material in the University of Liverpool from 1979 to 1998. From 1998 to 2002 The History of Psychology Centre Staffordshire University (under Professor Graham Richards, futurus Director of the History of Psychology Centre) housed the collection. In 2002 the material was transferred to the BPS History of Psychology Archives in John Street London. In March 2006 the material (apart from the first diaries which were in conservation) was transferred to a remote records centre (Crown Records Management) in Ruislip, Middlesex. In August the first diaries (and some representative materials) were transferred to HOPC's new office premises in Tabernacle Street, London EC1, whilst other BPS material remained at Ruislip.

British Psychological Society accession number 0037.

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