Our history

We began in 1965 as the Social Science Research Council, founded under a Royal Charter. Our early structure consisted of social science committees that covered 14 disciplines, ranging from anthropology to statistics.

In 1982 the Rothschild review recommended greater focus on empirical research and research related to public concerns. From 1983 we became the Economic and Social Research Council. Our new structure consisted of committees that addressed six areas: economic affairs, education and human development, environment and planning, government and law, industry and employment, and social affairs.

The quality and success of postgraduate training became a major issue during the 1980s. In 1989 we introduced formal postgraduate training guidelines.

During the 1990s, we developed our thematic priorities to focus research on scientific and national priorities. These were later replaced and our priorities were defined in an extensive strategic review that was carried out in 2005. Our current strategic priorities were introduced in 2011.

For a detailed account of the ESRC's first 40 years see SSRC and ESRC: the first forty years (PDF, 892Kb).

ESRC's Royal Charter

We were granted Royal Charter in 1965 as the Social Science Research Council. Since then the charter has been amended three times, in 1973, in 1983 when the Social Science Research Council became the Economic and Social Research Council, and finally in 1994.