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Flowchart: the History of Humanists UK

The Humanist Heritage project was launched to celebrate, in 2021, the 125th anniversary of Humanists UK, which began as the Union of Ethical Societies in 1896. Marking well over a century of the organisation itself, this sat within a longer, wider history of organised humanism and non-religion in the UK – one which has included a number of organisations still in existence today. These include: South Place Ethical Society, now Conway Hall Ethical Society (which originated with a group of dissenters in the 18th century); the National Secular Society (founded in 1866); and the Rationalist Press Association, known today as the Rationalist Association and still publishers of the New Humanist magazine.

United by principles of rationalism, secularism, and humanism, these organisations have frequently had members, leaders, and campaigns in common, and have often actively collaborated (as shown by the dotted lines in the diagram below). In addition to this, international organisations – notably Humanists International, founded in 1952 but with a precursor in the 19th century – have sought to bring humanists together on a global scale, and are also shown on this diagram.

The illustration below is intended as a visual aid to understanding this often complex history of formations, name changes, and associations, with Humanists UK (and its founding societies) shown in the central blocks. Click the image to view, zoom, and download a PDF version.

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