The society was founded in 1910 by Ananda Coomaraswamy, and others, as the India Society. Sedgwick reports Coomaraswamy's stimulus as follows:
In 1910 he became involved in a very public controversy, played out in the correspondence columns of The Times and elsewhere, on the status of Indian art. This had started when Sir George Birdwood, while chairing the Indian Section of the annual meeting of the Royal Society of Arts, had announced that there was no “fine art” in India and had somewhat unwisely responded to the suggestion that a particular statue of the Buddha was an example of fine art: “This senseless similitude, in its immemorial fixed pose, is nothing more than an uninspired brazen image. . . . A boiled suet pudding would serve equally well as a symbol of passionless purity and serenity of soul.” This controversy culminated in the foundation of the India Society, later the Royal India Society, to combat the views of the Birdwoods of this world. Coomaraswamy played a major part in this endeavor.
In 1944 the Society was granted permission to become The Royal India Society under the patronage of the Dowager Queen Mary of Teck. After partition, its name was again changed to the Royal India and Pakistan Society, and then again to the Royal India, Pakistan, and Ceylon Society. In 1966 it merged with the East India Association.