The College Historical Society (the Hist) will be awarded a Guinness World Record to commemorate its status as the oldest student society in the world, it was announced last month.
The Hist was founded at Trinity in 1770 to “promote student discourse and debate”. Past members include Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and Sally Rooney. It currently has over 10,000 members.
The process of obtaining the record began in March 2020, when the society celebrated its 250th anniversary. This procedure involved proving that the society has been active from its inception to the present day, including the two instances in which it was expelled by the College Board.
However, the Dublin University Philosophical Society (the Phil) also asserts the title of the world’s oldest student society. President of the Phil, Jack Palmer, told The University Times that “we still claim connections and a strong lineage all the way back to 1683”.
Palmer praised the Hist’s efforts in obtaining the record, calling it a “great initiative from them and fair play”.
Of disputing the Hist’s claim, Palmer said: “I suppose it’s kind of on us to potentially put our money where our mouth is and contest the record, but also for now we’re focused on the year and running events.” He suggested that others might be more eager to prove the Phil’s right to the title come summertime.
Speaking to The University Times about the potential of the Phil contesting the record, Hist Auditor Áine Kennedy, said: “They are more than welcome to. I don’t think any historian is going to back them up.” Overall, she welcomes their efforts: “I would love to see them try!”
Palmer says that the light-hearted competition between the societies is an improvement on their past relationship. “It’s definitely a good way for us to coexist. I know in the past there’s been full-on animosity.”
On the importance of the Hist’s legacy, Kennedy commented: “I think it’s really easy now for us to all agree that students having voices is a very important thing, but at the time that was not a universally popular opinion, particularly within Trinity but in any university worldwide.” When the Hist was founded, she says, “it was a very radical idea”.
The Guinness World Record will officially be awarded to the Hist on October 20th, with celebratory events beginning on October 18th.