The Select Society

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The Select Society, established in 1754 as The St. Giles Society but soon renamed, was an intellectual society in 18th century Edinburgh. [1] The society was first a discussion club then shortly thereafter a debating club for the intellectual elite of Edinburgh. [2]



The Select Society initially had fifteen members who included:

By the end of its first year, The Select Society had eighty three members. [6] Some years later, some of the members established The Poker Club. [7]

Their mission was articulated in The Scots Magazine in 1755: "The intention of these gentlemen was, by practice to improve themselves in reasoning and eloquence, and by the freedom of debate, to discover the most effectual methods of promoting the good of the country."

A member would pose a question for debate during the following meeting. Meetings were held on Wednesday nights from 6 PM to 9 PM 12 November – 12 August.[ citation needed ]


To become a member, one needed to be recommended in writing by two current members. If more than one name was up for consideration, members voted and the majority name made it to the following meeting at which a vote of three-fourths was needed to confirm the membership. [8]

Other Societies

In 1755 the Select Society founded a subsidiary body: the Edinburgh Society for Encouraging Arts, Sciences, Manufactures, and Agriculture in Scotland.[ citation needed ]

The society was not the only one of its kind in Edinburgh, with The Speculative Society performing a similar role.

Members of the society would go on to be involved with Edinburgh's convivial societies, such as The Poker Club.

See also

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  1. Emerson, Roger L. The Social Composition of Enlightened Scotland: The Select Society of Edinburgh, 1754–1764. (Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century) (1973)
  2. [ bare URL ]
  3. "Significant Scots: George Drummond". Electric Scotland.
  4. David Denby (11 October 2004). "Northern Lights: How modern life emerged from eighteenth-century Edinburgh". The New Yorker . [p. 3] A convivial bachelor, he [Hume] required company, preferably a dinner party at home (he prided himself on his "cookery") or a debate at the Select Society, a group of fifty of Edinburgh’s most clubbable and erudite minds. Review of James Buchan's Crowded With Genius (Capital of the Mind in the UK)
  5. "The Monros of Auchinbowie and Cognate Families". By John Alexander Inglis. Edinburgh. Printed privately by T and A Constable. Printers to His Majesty. 1911.
  6. "The Select - A Brief History". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007.
  7. The Poker Club (1762–1784)
  8. "An Account of the Select Society of Edinburgh". The Scots Magazine. 17: 126–127. 1755 via HathiTrust.