Our founder: Stephen King-Hall
The Hansard Society was established in 1944 to promote the ideals of the parliamentary system of government and to ensure that democracy would be safeguarded by being understood, debated and improved by parliamentarians and the public. Our first members were Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and since then the Prime Minister of the day and leaders of the main opposition parties have publicly supported the work of the Hansard Society. The Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker are the Co-Presidents of the Hansard Society and the leaders of the three major political parties are our Vice Presidents.
From its inception the Hansard Society has promoted the importance of political education in schools and among our most well-known activities are our Mock Elections, which provide an informative and hands-on way for young people to gain a taste of the electoral process. This work has developed over the years to include forums and debates held online to enable engagement with young people through the use of new technology. The Hansard Society’s pioneering work in schools led to what is now called Citizenship Education and we continue to ensure that teachers have free access to knowledge, training sessions and stimulating resources.
Since the 1970s the Hansard Society has organised and published research on many aspects of parliamentary democracy, critically examining social and political developments that affect Parliament, seeking to provide authoritative analysis of problems and suggest practical improvements. One important mechanism for this has been the establishment of independent Commissions of Inquiry chaired by eminent parliamentarians or academics. These have included pioneering work on electoral reform, representation of women, reform of the legislative process, the role of scrutiny in Parliament and the communication of Parliamentary Democracy. Our innovative research is at the forefront of debate about the work of Parliament, the role of parliamentarians, the future of representative democracy, and the public’s engagement with politics and the political process. Our research is renowned for its proven track record in navigating the difficult terrain of democratic innovations. In 2003 we published the first evaluation of political blogs, in 2006 we ran the first pilot to assess how mobile phones could be used to support parliamentary committees, in 2008 we studied online campaigning around the world and we have recently investigated how new technologies could transform the ways five national parliaments work.
In 1985 the Hansard Society established the prestigious Hansard Scholars and Hansard Research Scholars Programmes in association with the London School of Economics. These programmes attract future political leaders from across the globe, to study and work in Westminster. Since it’s creation, the study programme has expanded to include training for charities, journalists, companies and other organisations that need to understand how the parliamentary system works.
Winston Churchill, who, along with Clement Attlee, was our first member
Nearly 70 years on, the Hansard Society is universally recognised as the independent and non-partisan authority on Parliament and democracy. Today, our work encompasses a wide range of areas, from citizenship education to the role of Parliament, from devolution to the impact of new media on politics. Our team are regularly called to give evidence to parliamentry select committees and we are often invited to give advice on initiatives for reform both here in the UK and abroad. In addition, we organise events in Westminster with high-profile speakers, host influential seminars and hold popular fringe events at Party Conferences.
For our 40th anniversay in 1984 a short pamphlet was produced chronicling the history of the Hansard Society:
Download: The Hansard Society – The First 40 Years.
Photo: Winston Churchill, by Library of Congress, from Wikimedia Commons.