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L. Susan Stebbing by Howard Coster © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Humanist Heritage Project aims to bring to life an often overlooked but historically influential aspect of our heritage – humanism and the impact it has had locally and nationally on art, literature, and social, political, and ethical culture throughout UK history.

The Humanist Heritage project celebrates the 125th birthday of Humanists UK, which was founded in 1896 as the Union of Ethical Societies. As well as the history of the organisation, this website charts the significant presence and impact of humanist thought in the UK throughout history. Humanism emphasises values of reason, compassion, and inclusion, rejecting supernatural explanations of the world in favour of living well in the one life we have.

Humanism is a long-lived and active philosophy, embodied not only by those more modern individuals who have self-identified as humanists but by people across the world for thousands of years. As such, this site includes thinkers from the ancient world through to the present day. This includes those who have paved the way for later developments in freethought and rationalism, whether through scientific discovery, political activism, or new philosophies.

Ellen Dana Conway by Arthur Hughes. Conway Hall Humanist Library and Archives

What is included?

This website explores the history, development, and influence of humanism and humanist ideas in the United Kingdom. As well as places, events, and organisations, it profiles various individuals of importance to this history. Some were actively involved in humanist organisations, others lived before humanist organisations had formed or were not actively involved. Sometimes, we profile people whose approach to life was not fully humanist but who expressed important humanist ideas and opinions, or who were particularly influential on the development of humanist thought. No approach to life, whether religious or non-religious is ‘pure’ and unaffected by other views, and few people are uncomplicatedly of one view or another.

Humanist Heritage also aims to highlight those figures who have been neglected by history, and in traditional narratives of humanism and freethought. Among these are many women, including a number of organised humanism’s ‘forgotten founders’, as well as freethinkers and radicals who risked a great deal in the expression of humanist ideals.

Read more about our approach

This site is supported and administered by Humanists UK.

Made by Heritage Creative