On Friday 15th March 1901, a day of heavy rain, not more than ten people attended the inaugural meeting of the Australian Historical Society. From its inception, membership to the Society grew steadily. In 1906 The Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings was first published, and in 1918, the Society was granted the right to prefix the title Royal. In 1941, the first History House at 8 Young Street, Sydney, was opened, which provided the RAHS with premises until its move to the current History House at 133 Macquarie Street in 1971.
In 1961, the first RAHS Annual State History Conference was held in Sydney, and since then, this popular event on the RAHS calendar has been held every year in many regional centres throughout New South Wales. The first RAHS Cultural Grants program was introduced in 1967, which continues to fund a variety of local history projects each year. In 1985, the Society collaborated with the State Bank of New South Wales to identify and place descriptive plaques on 101 historic sites in the Sydney area. History magazine, in its current format, has been published since 1988 after evolving from the Society’s newsletter, which began in 1962.
In 2000, the RAHS launched its first website, and in 2013 this was given a full and much-needed revision. In 2013, as part of the bicentennial commemoration of the first European crossing of the Blue Mountains, the RAHS launched its Western Crossings website. The following year, the Society won the National Trust Heritage Award – Education and Interpretation – Community/Individual, for this project. Since the Society’s inception, members have collected, researched, written and communicated on a vast spectrum of Australian historical themes.
In 2020, the RAHS established a firmer digital presence by introducing an online lecture and workshop series and transitioning its official journal, the JRAHS, to an online publication accessible through its members’ portal on the website. In 2023, we launched a new look website to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
The Royal Australian Historical Society has steadily evolved from its pioneering origins, with its members comprised of individuals, affiliated historical societies, libraries and corporations. In the twenty-first century, it will continue to reflect the changing ways we engage with history.