The Oxford University Archaeological Society (OUAS) was not the first university society in Oxford with archaeological interests. The OU Brass Rubbing Society was founded in 1893; under the presidency of Viscount Dillon, President of the Society of Antiquaries, it published a journal in two volumes and collected money for the preservation and refixing of brasses. Its interests widened, and in 1901 a new name was chosen, the OU Antiquarian Society, “for the study of monumental brasses and kindred subjects.” The programme for Michaelmas Term 1901, preserved in the archives, announces weekly lectures and visits, including a cycling excursion to Cassington with the distance, seven miles, firmly stated. Membership rose to 119 members, but by October 1911 the society had been dormant for “a year or two” and “had to be resuscitated”.

In that first term after the revival, Michaelmas 1911, papers were read by E. T. Leeds, R. G. Collingwood, and O. G. S. Crawford. Members were few but enthusiastic, and sustained a full programme. The last meeting was held for a group photograph on 13 June 1914; after this no more is recorded, and it seems that the society disbanded during the Great War.

The archives of these twenty years are few; some cards and pamphlets of the Brass Rubbing Society, the minute book from 1911 to 1914, and a strange work in four holograph volumes which endeavours to show how the sacred writings of antiquity reflect the geological history of the Earth in allegorical “anthropomorphic systems” based on the Creation date of 4004 BC calculated by Archbishop Ussher, like some curious survival from the age of the Bridgewater Treatises.

Read more about the history of the OUAS on the Archives Project blog here.