The Debating Society was formed in 1828, in the same year as the Medical Society. These are the two oldest societies in UCL. Originally, the Debating Society was called the Literary and Philosophical Society and resolved to debate “any subject not involving the subject of religious creeds.” Of course this has changed somewhat down the ages. Interesting to note, in the 19th century, the Debating Society decided that women should have the right to vote and alcoholic beverages “were to be encouraged”.
The Women’s Debating Society was formed in 1879. In March 1926, there was a proposal to combine the Union Debating Society with the Women’s Debating Society but this motion failed, at a close vote of 6 to 5. Women were eventually admitted and thankfully we have now shed the image of being an old boy’s club.
A long-standing tradition of the society used to be that the Secretary had to wear green socks on a Monday night, without which a debate could not start if a point of order was raised. It is believed this tradition began some time in the 1960s, and lasted for around 40 years until a president in 2003 discontinued it.
These days the society continues to thrive, with one of the largest memberships of any UCL society. We continue to debate the most important issues, entertaining prominent guest speakers, and training the next generation of UCL debaters.