The Chetham Society is the oldest history society in North West England and was one of the first in Britain. It was founded in Manchester in 1843 by a group of gentlemen, of 'a literary and historical turn', who wanted to promote interest in, and access to, the rich historical source material of the region. The formal object of the Society was therefore to publish 'Remains Historical and Literary connected with the Palatine Counties of Lancashire and Chester', although since the 1870s the literary element has been dropped and the work of the Society has concentrated entirely upon the publication of history.
The Society held its first meeting in Chetham's Library, established in 1653 by the will of Humphrey Chetham, and it continues to meet there today. The founders chose to adopt Chetham's name for the new Society because he was a patron and benefactor of learning in the region.