The founder, Louis Marchesi, was a young member of Norwich Rotary Club who felt a need existed for a club where the young business men of the town could gather, on a regular basis. At their meetings they could exchange ideas, learn from the experiences of their colleagues and play a collective part in the civic life of Norwich. Within a year of inception the membership of this Round Table had grown to 85 and interest was being shown in establishing Round Tables elsewhere. A second Round Table was established in Portsmouth and subsequent growth was rapid, with 125 Tables and a membership of 4,600 by 1939. Round Table proved it had international appeal with the first overseas Table formed in Copenhagen in 1936.
After 1945 the pattern of growth was rapidly re-established with Tables being ‘chartered’ all over the UK. Today there are about 900 Tables with a membership of around 10,000.
John Barton was instrumental in setting up the 1st Round Table in India.
The Madras Round Table #1 was formed on 14th November 1962. John Barton was in Madras, an active Rotarian then, who also remarked later about young men feeling stifled in Rotary. In England John Barton was introduced to the Round Table movement, a movement which was then about thirty years old in Britain. Feeling an immediate empathy with the aims and objects of Round Table, he set about discovering whether he could import this movement into India. And so it happened that when John Barton returned to Madras, he brought Tabling with him. It was a tentative beginning. Barton brought together some of his friends and the sons of some of his friends in Rotary. There were eight invitees at the first primary contact meeting where he put forth his idea to build on. Among the eight were Ram Phadke, P.A. Ethiraj, S.A. Patel and Krish Chitale. The birth place of the Round Table in India was Barton’s residence, Hadley, a charming colonial house in Kilpauk. When Madras Round Table 1 was formed the sponsor was Hastings Round Table in England, through which John Barton had first been introduced to the movement.
Round Table now flourishes in the majority of European countries, throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand and America. Over the recent few years it has expanded in Asia with new clubs being formed in Colombo, Nepal, Russia, Bangladesh and Singapore. From a very early stage it was agreed that Round Table would be a non-political, non-religious, and non-sectarian club and this has continued to the current day.
Currently, in Round Table India, there are more than 200 Tables located in 76 cities and towns, comprising of businessmen, entrepreneurs, technocrats and professionals. Men who can rise above personal concerns to seek and serve the larger needs of the community. On the administration front, Round Table India has a National Board, which guides the affairs of the association. Round Table India is divided into 11 Areas, which have their own Area Board to administer them.