The College Historical Society of Trinity College Dublin, commonly known as the 'Hist,’ has officially been confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest student society.

The Hist “boasts a rich history of debating success, both within Ireland and abroad, and a long list of internationally well-known guests and alumni to the society,” Guinness Book of World Records says.

The student society celebrated the official recognition by saying: “After putting together an extraordinary amount of archival and photographic evidence corroborated by independent expert witnesses, GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ have recognised the College Historical Society of Trinity College Dublin as the oldest student society in the world!

“The Hist’s founding in March 1770 was a pivotal moment in the now long-standing tradition of student organisations and debate.

“Today, with constructive, and sometimes contentious, debate, the Hist continues to promote the once-radical idea that student voices should be encouraged and heard."

Representatives of The Hist will be officially presented with the Certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records during a Gala Dinner in October.

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Trinity College Dublin says that the Hist was founded on March 21, 1770, to pursue “speeching, reading, writing and arguing, in Morality, History, Criticism, Politics, and all the useful branches of philosophy.” It precedes the foundations of both the Cambridge (1815) and Oxford (1823) unions, both of which were modeled after it. 

It took the Hist two years to prove its longevity, Trinity said. To achieve Guinness World Records recognition, the society had to prove – by photographic evidence and other means - that it had operated without interruption since its establishment. Independent, expert witness statements in confirming the Hist’s credentials were made by renowned historians Prof. Roy Foster of Oxford University and Prof. Marianne Elliott of Liverpool University. 

To prove the Hist’s case, former auditor Luke Fehily collated an enormous volume of evidence of the society’s longevity and continuous activity from the extensive records collection of Trinity’s Library, contemporary newspaper articles from the Irish Times archive, and historical essays.

Hunting down the evidence was difficult. At times, the Society had a troubled relationship with the College authorities, particularly when it was led by revolutionaries Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet. The Hist was expelled twice by the College Board, but there was unambiguous evidence that the Society continued to exist and meet during that period. 

After the Hist was readmitted in 1843, W. B. S. Taylor in his "History of the University of Dublin [1845]" wrote that "Although twice under the ban of the college authority, [the College Historical Society] has always preserved a real existence”. 

The Hist will officially receive its Guinness World Records certificate at a celebratory dinner on October 20  during a week-long series of events.

Hist Auditor Áine Kennedy said: “We are thrilled at this official recognition of our Society as a seminal institution in student intellectual debate, organisation, and action.

"The Hist continues to devote itself to learning lessons from the past and discussing the most pressing issues of our day. This achievement demonstrates a remarkable tradition of encouraging student voices, radical discourse, and oratorical excellence.  

“For over two and a half centuries, the Hist has continued to cultivate these ideals. I want to acknowledge the time and effort invested by previous auditors into proving our case as the world’s oldest student society and thank our alumni for their unwavering support."