Chatham House

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Chatham House, St James Square London
HeadquartersLondon, England
LeaderChatham House/President
Incumbent: Eliza Manningham-Buller
Since 22 July 2015
Typethink tank
SubpageChatham House/Chair
Chatham House/President

The Royal Institute for International Affairs - also known as Chatham House - is a British think tank. It was founded in 1920 and is a lynchpin of the British Foreign Policy establishment. Its famous Chatham House Rule, when invoked, requires confidentiality of all meeting participants and prohibits attribution of comments. The current (2010) chairman of the council of Chatham House is the former CIA operative Dr. DeAnne Julius and the Director (until the end of 2006) was Victor Bulmer-Thomas [1].


The Royal Institute of International Affairs was founded in 1920 as the Institute of International Affairs following a meeting at the previous year's Paris Peace Conference. The first chairman was Robert Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, while Lionel Curtis served as honorary secretary. Arnold J. Toynbee later became director. The Council on Foreign Relations, its American sister institute, was established the following year. Chatham House, The RIIA's well-known headquarters at 10 St James's Square, London, was gifted to the institute in 1923, having previously been the home of three British Prime Ministers: Pitt the Elder, Edward Stanley and William Gladstone.

The name of the building grew to be so synonymous with the Institute that it was officially rebranded as "Chatham House" in September 2004. However, "Royal Institute of International Affairs" continues to be used interchangeably with "Chatham House".

The Chatham House building is located just a few metres from the former Libyan embassy building, and many long term staff members witnessed the 1984 Libyan Embassy Siege.

On July 18, 2005, Chatham House released a paper on Security, Terrorism and the UK which stated that "[a] key problem for the UK in preventing terrorism in Britain is the government’s position as ‘pillion passenger’ to the United States' war on terror." [2]

Nuclear Power: Attacking Government Advisors As Being 25 Years Out of Date

In March 2005, the UK Government advisors, the Sustainable Development Commission, (SDC) published its report into nuclear energy as part of the Government's energy review. The report was seen as a significant step-back for the nuclear industry as the SDC concluded that "nuclear power is not the answer to tackling climate change or security of supply". According to the SDC its report "draws together the most comprehensive evidence base available, to find that there is no justification for bringing forward a new nuclear power programme at present".[3]

Along with Rebecca Willis, a Vice-Chair of the SDC, Malcolm Grimstone from the RIIA was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours Programme on the day the report was released. Grimstone said the SDC's report was like "moving back 25 years in time. There has been no recognition of how far nuclear technology has come in that time". He also said that the "only unsubsidised source of energy at the moment is nuclear power". [4]


Chatham House conducts original research into a variety of regional and global issues, and describes itself as follows.

... a melting pot that brings together people and organisations with an interest in international affairs. We provide an independent forum in which academia, business, diplomats, the media, NGOs, politicians, policy makers and researchers can interact in an open and impartial environment.

The widespread recognition of the Chatham House Rule as a byword for free and frank debate is a reflection of our unique and non-aligned perspective.

Chatham House is routinely used as a source of information for media organisations seeking background or experts upon matters involving major international issues.

Chatham House reflects a pro-establishment view of the world (due to donations from large corporations, governments and other organisations), but is nevertheless membership-based and anyone may join. The relatively high annual membership fee (approx £200) tends to put access to Chatham House out of reach of many ordinary people.

Chatham House Rule

Full article: Stub class article Chatham House Rule

Chatham House is the origin of the confidentiality rule known as the Chatham House Rule, which provides that members attending a seminar may discuss the results of the seminar in the outside world, but may not discuss who attended or what they said. The Chatham House Rule evolved to facilitate frank and honest discussion on controversial or unpopular issues by speakers who may not have otherwise had the appropriate forum to speak freely. However, most Chatham House meetings are held 'on the record', and not under the Chatham House Rule.

The rule currently reads as follows:

"When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed". [5]



The Council 2005-2006

List of Other Staff

It has an American wing, the Chatham House Foundation.


A Document by Chatham House

TitleDocument typePublication dateSubject(s)Description
File:Security Terrorism and the UK.pdfbriefing paper1 July 2005"Terrorism"
"National security"
A quintessentially UK Establishment view on Security and Terrorism in the UK.


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Jeremy Corbyn’s Chatham House speechArticle12 May 2017The Spectator"Weapons supplied to Saudi Arabia, when the evidence of grave breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen is overwhelming, must be halted immediately."
Document:The Secret Society That Rules The WorldArticle7 November 2018Bas SplietIn his 1999 campaign autobiography, President George W. Bush mentioned his membership in passing: "My senior year I joined Skull and Bones, a secret society, so secret I can’t say anything more."


A document sourced from Chatham House

TitleTypeSubject(s)Publication dateAuthor(s)
File:Mendez-Chatham House lecture.pdfreportTorture10 September 2012Juan Méndez

See Also