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Parliamentary debating in general has always been a world-connector student activity. As far back as the early 20th Century, debaters from Oxford and other parts of the United Kingdom would travel to the US and Asia to participate in debates in front of audiences and with their peers in other countries. This same tradition would set into motion the regular, international matches between Canadian and American teams in parliamentary tournaments as well. This period lasting until 1981 would see various iterations of North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand hosts bringing together those who could come in parliamentary contests – creating the bedrock for BP today.
The first formal World Championship that involved a truly global effort was held by the University of Glasgow in 1981 and what sets this apart was the idea: that this would be repeated annually at around the same period (after Christmas and through the New Year holiday) from then on. The humble beginnings of the world championship in Scotland included a $10 per team registration fee that included a bed for each travelling competitor and a brief excursion to Edinburgh.
The tournament was to find a host among its patron university teams every year from this point. Some early milestones include:
And, most importantly, the consensus to employ the British Parliamentary format in its current iteration with eight speakers in four teams was reached when Princeton University hosted the tournament in 1995. It is seen as a turning point to true global stakeholdership as well when an Asia debater from NTU, Singapore won the title of Best Speaker of the World in that year – the first person representing an institution outside the West to do so. From here we see the modern World Championship take shape. The Cambridge Union and Ateneo would both bid to host the 1999 edition of the World Championships (the last tournament in the 20th Century) at the 1997 tournament in Stellenbosch, South Africa. In the midst of the Asian Financial Crisis, the world council's representatives unanimously voted for the Asian bid. Subsequently, the first Asian to be Chief Adjudicator of the championships was appointed in 1998.
Monash University, the Australian institution in Melbourne, would win the championships three times in a row on three different continents from 2011 to 2013. While both Harvard College and Oxford Union have four wins apiece, it is the University of Sydney Union that claims the greatest number of world championship titles at eight: 1984, 1989, 2001, 2007, 2010, 2015, 2017, and 2019.
The Debating International builds upon this rich history and competition track record of the British Parliamentary format through this older world championship and creates a new one open for school students looking to represent the best of their home nations or regions. Aligned with an understanding of from whence we came and where we look ahead to build, bringing knowledge gained combined with the resources and technologies newly available, we continue a tradition of excellence and sportsmanship in British Parliamentary debating.
TDI is a World Championship for competitive debating in the British Parliamentary format.
BP Debaters in Kuala Lumpur
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