• Title
    College Governance
  • Reference
  • Level of description
  • Date
  • Creator
  • Scope and Content
    Includes minutes and letter books of the Court of Assistants (1800-1832). Also includes Minutes, agendas and papers of the Council, records relating to Council elections, Charters and related records, bye-laws, regulations and ordinances and related records, and Council Club photo albums.
  • Extent
    99 boxes
  • Language
  • System of arrangement
    As described in the Scope and Content.
  • Conditions governing access
    By appointment only. See College website for contact details of the Archives.
  • Admin./ biographical history
    The Royal College of Surgeons of London was created by a Royal Charter on 22nd March 1800. The structure of the College was very similar to the former Company of Surgeons. The College was governed by a Master and two Wardens and eighteen other members who made up a Court of Assistants. There was also a Court of Examiners made up of ten men. Both Courts were elected for life. The College examined civilian and military surgeons and regulated the practice of surgery within London - no-one was allowed to practice surgery within ten miles of London without first taking the College membership exam (MRCS). Significant changes to the structure of College governance, or any other aspect of College business requires a new Charter and less significant changes require new College bye-laws. The College has had a series of Charters, since 1800 bringing about significant changes. In 1822 the College was granted a new Charter by King George IV. This Charter modernised the College, updating its governance to a Council with a President and two Vice Presidents. In 1843 the College was granted another new Charter. This allowed the College to create Fellows, initially by nomination, and thereafter by exam (FRCS). This Charter made the College more democratic because the Fellows elected the Council members for a term of 8 years instead of for life. Examiners continued to be appointed by the Council at their pleasure (gradually becoming a of period 3 years) instead of for life. The 1843 Charter also changed the College’s name to ‘The Royal College of Surgeons of England’. Initially the College, like all medical colleges, only admitted men. In 1876 the government passed an Act allowing all medical colleges to admit women, and the General Medical Council agreed to register female practitioners. In 1895, and again in 1906, Members and Fellows voted against admitting women to the College. In 1908 the Council overruled the Fellows and Members and drew up a new Bye-Law allowing women to sit the exams but restricting their membership. Women could not become Council members or examiners, nor were they allowed to vote for Council members or attend meetings of the Fellows and Members. The 1926 Charter removed these Bye-Laws so that women were admitted to Membership and Fellowship of the College on exactly the same terms as men. From 1841 dental practitioners began to lobby the Council for a separate exam in dental surgery and in 1859 a supplemental College Charter known as 'the dental charter' was approved by Queen Victoria. The first exams in dental surgery were held in 1860 and a further Charter of 1947 created the Fellowship in Dental Surgery. The 1957 Charter created Fellows in the Faculty of Anaesthesia, but from the 1970s onwards the anaesthetists wanted more independence. In 1986 the Council agreed to allow the anaesthetists to form a College within a College, and this was agreed in the 1988 Charter. However, the College of Anaesthetists could not then be granted its own Charter, as it was not an independent body. In response the anaesthetists separated from the surgeons entirely, and established the Royal College of Anaesthetists in 1992.
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