Royal Asiatic Society Public School Medal

Scope and Content

The records of the Public School Medal cover the institution of the medal and the conferment of the Honour in subsequent years. They include examples of the medal, an original Declaration of Trust, and subsequent printed versions of the declaration; correspondence and newspaper cuttings. However there are not records for all instances of the presentation of the Medal. Researchers are advised to also examine the Council Minutes and the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (both held in the RAS Collections) when researching concerning the Public School Medal and its recipients.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland was founded by the eminent Sanskrit scholar Sir Henry Thomas Colebrooke on the 15th March 1823. It received its Royal Charter from King George IV on the 11th August 1824 'for the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia'. It continues as a forum for those who are interested in the languages, cultures and history of Asia to meet and exchange ideas.

In October 1901 the Council of the Royal Asiatic Society agreed to invite a number of Indian Princes to support the Triennial Gold Medal Fund. The appeal was organised by Mr H.A. Sim of the Madras Civil Service to which some 13 chiefs and gentlemen of India responded with contributions totalling £1270. But in 1902, the Council determined that sufficient funds had already been received from Great Britain to support the Triennial Gold Medal. It was therefore determined that the interest derived from the Madras appeal should be divided between a fund for School Medals and a fund for the publication of monographs.

A medal committee recommended that the new schools' award should be smaller in size than the Triennial Medal. The symbol of a sun rising from the Eastern Sea and the motto, EX ORIENTE LUX, both originally used for the Oriental Translation Fund, would be on the medal, with the reverse bearing a laurel wreath and the words: ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY - INDIAN EMPIRE SCHOOL MEDAL.

Initially it was called the Indian Empire School Medal but in 1905 it was decided that the prize should be called "The Royal Asiatic Society Public School Medal" and would be awarded yearly to a boy from a Public school who submitted the best paper on an oriental subject chosen by a committee. The medal, originally of gold, measured 3.5cm in diameter. Initially only boys from Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Rugby, Charterhouse, Westminster and Merchant Taylors' School were eligible to compete, but in succeeding years the list was gradually increased to include almost all the public schools in Britain.

A new trust deed and schedule was approved in 1907. This provided for an award of a book-prize to the boy from each competing school whose essay was judged to be of a high standard, with the author of the best essay being awarded the medal. Each book, on an oriental theme would be provided with a book plate (examples of this can be seen in the archive).

With the exception of 1924 and 1927, the prize was awarded annually from 1904-1929. However it was not hugely popular. In 1930, a meeting of the members of the Council with the Ministry of Education led to the recommendation that the competition be made more general. However the Council envisaged a different change and Regulations were drawn up to change the award to the University Prize Fund to be open to university undergraduates rather than to school children.

The winners of the Medal are:

  • 1904 - William Norman Ewer (Merchant Taylors' School) who later became a foreign affairs journalist.
  • 1905 - Edward William Horner (Eton College) who became a lawyer but was killed in action in WWI.
  • 1906 - Leonard Fielding Nalder (Rugby School) who became a colonial governor in Sudan.
  • 1907 - Alexander Percival Waterfield (Westminster School) who pursued a civil service career culminating in becoming the first civil service commissioner in 1939 with subsequent knighthood in 1944.
  • 1908 - Hugh Kingsmill Lunn (Harrow School) who after serving in WWI and being held prisoner in France, became a successful journalist and author.
  • 1909 - A.H.M Wedderburn (Eton College) who in 1912 rowed in the Oxford University eight and was President of the Union. He also served in WWI but survived.
  • 1910 - Edward Richard Buxton Shanks (Merchant Taylors' School) who also became a writer and a journalist.
  • 1911 - Arthur Lewis Jenkins (Marlborough College), a scholarship boy both at school and Balliol, he joined the Light Infantry in 1914, serving in India, Aden and Palestine, before joining the flying corps serving in Egypt. He died in 1917 on patrol duty in England.
  • 1912 - Harold Francis Amboor Keating (Eton College), born in Australia but died, serving in WWI, in France in June 1918.
  • 1913 - S.P. Martin (Merchant Taylors' School)
  • 1914 - H.W. Beck (Denstone College)
  • 1915 - H.A. Mettam (Merchant Taylors' School)
  • 1916 - J.R. Hassell (Denstone College)
  • 1917 - Mervyn Davies (Bishop Stortford College)
  • 1918 - Hubert Miles Gladwyn Jebb (Eton College) who entered the diplomatic service in 1924, served for a short time as Acting Secretary-General for the United Nations in 1945, and was knighted in 1949.
  • 1919 - S.S. Bajpai (Dulwich College)
  • 1920 - Oliver Martin Wilson Warner (Denstone College) who became a British naval historian and writer.
  • 1921 - G.F. Hudson (Shrewsbury School) who became a historian and author.
  • 1922 - Seymour Joly de Lotbiniere (Eton College) who became a Director of the British Broadcasting Corporation and masteminded the televising of the Queen's Coronation in 1953.
  • 1923 - D.E.F.C. Binyon (Westminster School), nephew of Laurence Binyon.
  • 1925 - E.I. Goulding (Merchant Taylors' School)
  • 1926 - Kenneth Adam (Nottingham High School) who became a journalist and broadcasting executive, and from 1957 until 1961 served as the Controller of the BBC Television Service.
  • 1928 - A.J. Hobson (Nottingham High School)
  • 1929 - Charles Leslie Rosenheim (Bromsgrove School), younger brother of Baron Max Leonard Rosenheim, he joined the army in WWII and was killed in 1945.


The Material was divided into two series thus:

  • RAS PGM/1 - Institution and Governance of the Public School Medal
  • RAS PGM/2 - Conferment of the Public School Medal

Access Information

Open. Some access may be restricted due to Data Protection Issues. Please contact the archivist using the email address given here. The archive is open on Tuesdays and Fridays 10-5, and Thursdays 2-5. Access is to any researcher without appointment but it will help if an appointment is made via phone or email. Please bring photo ID and proof of address.

Acquisition Information

These are part of the institutional records of the Royal Asiatic Society which have been accumulated throughout its history. However there has not been a systematic keeping of records throughout the history of the Royal Asiatic Society and therefore some occasions of the Medal's conferment have few records and, in some cases, no records remain.

Archivist's Note

This material was catalogued by Nancy Charley, RAS Archivist, in 2018.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital photography (without flash) for research purposes may be permitted upon completion of a copyright declaration form, and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Custodial History

These records are part of the Royal Asiatic Society's Institutional Records and therefore part of the historical records of the Society.

Related Material

The Council Minutes Books of the Royal Asiatic Society have decisions minuted regarding the institution of the Medal, the yearly establishment of a Committee to choose the essay titles and to judge the entrants, with subsequent conferment of each Medal and Book prizes. The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society also contains information in its "Proceedings of the Royal Asiatic Society"sections, particularly in the annual Report of the Annual General Meeting.

An article in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1984, pp.99-119, "The Emblems, Medals and Medallists of the Royal Asiatic Society" by John Hansman, contains information pertinent to researchers of the Public School Medal. An offprint of this article is found in this material.

Personal Names