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A brief history of the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference.

History and previous conferences

The origins of the RGS-IBG annual conference can be traced back to January 1933 and the inaugural meeting of the then newly founded Institute of British Geographers (IBG). For the first few years of its existence, the IBG annual conference and AGM ran alongside the conference of the Geographical Association, and was held at the London School of Economics. In 1949, the conference was held outside of London for the first time, in Oxford, beginning a tradition of holding the conference at a different UK higher education institution each year. This continued during the early years of the newly merged RGS-IBG.

From 2004, the conference has taken place outside of London every three years, most recently in Manchester (2009), Edinburgh (2012), Exeter (2015), Cardiff (2018), and Newcastle (2022).

You can find out more about previous conferences here, including details of previous chairs, and themes.

Find out more


You can also browse the archive of recent past conference programmes here.

Browse the archive



From the very beginning, the conference has been chaired by a leading academic who also serves on the Society’s Research and Higher Education Committee (and until 2023, also on Council). They are elected by the Fellowship of the Society through the Society’s annual cycle of nominations, which close in March each year. They along with all new Trustees and committee members are announced at the Society’s AGM in June.

Once elected, the chair of conference selects a conference theme, which shapes their plenary lectures and panels as well as many of the sessions and other events at the conference. The theme is generally announced at the preceding annual conference, which always takes place immediately after the last Monday in August (which is a public holiday in the UK). Over the course of the next few months the chair then convenes their plenary lectures and panels, inviting high-profile speakers who can speak to key issues within the wider theme. Around this time, a number of journals also convene high-profile lectures and panels. These and other programme highlights, including pre-conference events, field trips, workshops and exhibitions, are announced in the March before the conference.

In addition to the ‘top-down’ content developed by the conference chair and journal Editors, the overwhelming majority of sessions for the conference are developed by the Society’s Research Groups and members of the geographical and related communities. In addition to those engaging with the chair’s conference theme, these also include sessions presenting the latest research from all areas of geography.