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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 website was launched in 2021 to celebrate 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.

New to humanist history? Start here.

Looking for learning resources? You can find them here.

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

Doers, Dreamers, Place Makers

In 2023, Humanist Heritage was awarded a grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund for Humanist Heritage: Doers, Dreamers, Place Makers. As well as continuing to grow this website with new and volunteer-contributed content, we will be: building an interactive virtual tour of Conway Hall, one of the UK’s only surviving buildings built by and for the non-religious; digitising and sharing materials from our archives; and creating a programme of events and learning activities.

This site is supported and administered by Humanists UK.

Made by Heritage Creative