The society was founded at a public meeting in 1910, chaired by Frederic Kenyon, Director of the British Museum, and sponsored by Percy Gardner, George Macmillan, John Penoyre, Francis Haverfield, J. S. Reid, A. H. Smith, G. F. Hill , and G. H. Hallam. The Society's Memorandum and Articles of Association described its major aims as "...to promote Roman studies by creating a library, publishing a journal, and supporting the British School at Rome." The first issue of the Journal of Roman Studies was published in 1911. Early contributors included Francis Haverfield, Eugénie Strong, Albert Van Buren, Elizabeth Van Buren and G. L. Cheesman.Margerie Taylor oversaw the Society from Oxford as secretary from 1923 until 1954, subsequently serving as Honorary Secretary and Editor of JRS. The society celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1960, marked in part by the major exhibition on Art in Roman Britain at Goldsmiths' Hall, London, accompanied by a catalogue by Jocelyn Toynbee. In 1966 a sub-committee was established to consider starting a second journal. The first issue of Britannia was published in 1970, edited by Sheppard Frere.
|Edited by||Peter Thonemann|
|ISO 4||J. Rom. Stud.|
The society produces two annual publications, the Journal of Roman Studies, which contains articles and book reviews dealing with the Roman world in general, and Britannia, which has articles and reviews specifically on Roman Britain. The society also publishes the Britannia Monograph Series, from 1981, and the JRS Monograph Series, from 1982.
A library is maintained jointly with the Hellenic Society and in conjunction with the University of London's Institute of Classical Studies with over 110,000 volumes and 600 current periodicals. The Joint Library was built in-part through review copies from JRS and Britannia.
There is a programme of public lectures in London, and others outside London arranged with local branches of the Classical Association.
The following persons are or have been president of the society: