The Royal Society for Asian Affairs is a learned society based in London (United Kingdom) that was founded in 1901 as the Central Asian Society to "promote greater knowledge and understanding of Central Asia and surrounding countries". The geographical extent of the society's interest has since expanded to include the whole of Asia. Taylor & Francis publishes the society's journal, Asian Affairs, which has been in print since 1914.
The society was founded in 1901 to promote greater knowledge and understanding of Central Asia and surrounding countries. With the passage of time, the area has been extended to include the whole of Asia, from the Middle East to Japan. In pursuit of these aims, the Council of the society seeks to provide a balanced programme of activities which, though by no means neglecting the past, gives opportunities for keeping up-to-date with developments and for discussion on a wide variety of topics of common interest to Asia and the West.
Meetings are held about twice a month at 14 Belgrave Square, at which lectures are given by authoritative speakers. The programme includes lectures, films, and slides on current affairs, economics, finance, history, art, archaeology, sociology, culture, travel, and other subjects of special interest connected with all parts of Asia. In addition, the society organises social functions, which include an annual dinner, an afternoon tea party in the summer, an anniversary meeting, and buffets at lunch-time and refreshment at evening lectures which give members and their guests an opportunity to meet the guest speaker and others with similar interests.
The society maintains a library and reading room with a collection of about 7,000 books on Asian subjects.
The society organises tours in most years, to enable a group of members to make detailed visits to particular countries. Study groups are occasionally established on subjects of particular interest.
The Royal Society for Asian Affairs awards two medals, the "Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal" (named for Percy Sykes, honorary secretary 1924-1932) and the "Lawrence of Arabia Memorial Medal", named for T. E. Lawrence, to individuals who have distinguished themselves in their contribution to cultural relations, exploration, research, or literature. The society also awards its own "Special Award" and administers the "Sir Peter Holmes Memorial Award" for purposeful travel by young people aged between 18 and 25.