To mark this historic year, we invite our alumni to participate in a variety of celebratory events - we hope that there will be something for everyone. Future events will be posted here and we welcome you to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and feedback.
As we continue to develop our alumni relations programme, we are delighted to announce the launch of an alumni network group for 'RO World' life alumni members. More information will follow in due course. Those that would like to register their interest in receiving details about reunion events for ex Returning Officers, ex Deputy Returning Officers and other alumni life members who continue to be part of 'RO World' can do so by registering here.
Your data will be securely stored using our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool provider, Toucan Tech. The Oxford Union will not share your details with any third parties without your prior consent. Additional alumni groups will be announced in due course.
Wednesday 5th April 2023 signifies 200 years to the day since our first ever debate was held; no matter where you will be, we hope you will gather with friends to raise a glass to the aspect of the Union’s history which is the hallmark of its existence: freedom of speech.
Those that wish to do so are then invited to email email@example.com or write to The Union with a message and / or a photograph of your celebration for inclusion in our archives; the compilation of all contributions will be revisited when we celebrate our 225th anniversary in 2048. You may wish to include the year and term of anyone mentioned who have held an elected position but there is no obligation to do so.
The 5th April 1823
This date serves as a reminder that we must never take free speech for granted. It is strange to us today that University of Oxford students were once restricted from discussing certain subjects in the early 19th century and that in 1822 twenty five young men, tired of these constraints, met in secret to establish a set of Rules that would govern a new Society.
In March 1823 the ‘United Debating Society’ was born. Its first ever debate, held on the 5th of April 1823, would be on the State, the monarchy, and democracy, subjects which would be debated time and again across the next two centuries:
Was the revolution under Cromwell to be attributed to the tyrannical conduct of Charles, or to the democratic spirit of the time?
As many well know, The Oxford Union Society was not established until December 1825 (see ‘Our History’). Nonetheless, our origins have never been questioned. For this reason, all property and books that were first issued under the auspices of The United Debating Society were stamped with the year 1823, as a nod to the true year in which The Oxford Union’s prevailing purpose was first defined: to uphold free speech.
Upholding free speech today
The importance of upholding free speech remains equally critical today as it did in 1823. We will continue to resist efforts to silence alternative views and stand firm in our mission. We do not platform. We do not de-platform. We debate by questioning, challenging and scrutinising a range of opinions.
We look forward to celebrating this important date within our Bicentenary year with you – whether you are a member or a supporter of our mission, here’s to 200 years of free speech and many more.