“Only by intense study, as afforded to the other Sciences, may we truly hope to discover the inner beauty of magic as a fundamental force of our world” - from the opening of Principia Magicae
The Slough Institute is the worlds foremost Institute for Magical Science, otherwise known as the “Raleigh School of Thought”. The leading principle of this idea that magic, as with any other fundamental force of nature, can be studied with the same rigour that can be afforded to similar studies in other areas, such as Physics and Chemistry. The Institute is part of a network of similar such organisations, spanning across the globe, in 6 of the 7 continents1).
The origins of the Slough Institute can be traced back to around 1670, and the legacy of Tamesine Raleigh, making it one of the oldest establishments in the network. As with so many figures of the time, the finer details of Raleigh's life are forgotten to time, however the origins of the 'Raleigh school of thought' can be traced back to her time at the University of Oxford. Some historians like to claim that such an idea could only prevail in a prestigious institution such as the University at the time, though many accounts indicate similar approaches to magic elsewhere in the country, and indeed the world. However these other reports mostly detail individuals with this approach, whereas in Raleigh's case there was a greater number of people, working together to bring the 'scientific approach' to magic.
Around 20 years after this group became established, the group moved from Oxford to Slough. This has thought to be due to growing unrest from the townsfolk, as without any legal protection at the time, moving seemed like the safest option to the group. By the time legal protection for magic came in just a few years later, Hawthorne House was well established, and has remained the most prominent location for magical research in the UK to date. The institute drew the attention of the wider world with the release of the eminently popular Principia Magicae, detailing the magical disciplines, and other fields of magical research. While published in Raleigh's name, acknowledgements are given to many others in the Institute for their contributions to research.
Since then, a number of similar Institutions were founded around the world, and links were soon founded between them to co-ordinate research, and share findings. The collaboration aided in the publishing of a second book from Slough - “Elementry Magic”. This new book was not focused so much on the academic side of things as Principia was, instead outlining the basics of magic, including its usage as a tool beyond academic fields. This broader approach gave rise to it's popularity as a course textbook for various magical courses. Even those who've not studied magic formally are usually familiar with the book, and those involved in the magical community often have a copy lying around the house somewhere.
Towards the beginning of the 20th century, the focus shifted from study, to include teaching the subject. Initially these were student classes, based at Hawthorne House in Slough, but their increasing popularity allowed a number of satellite schools to be set up around the country. The later half of the century saw continued effort to interact with the public, with evening classes focusing on both the study and practical applications of magic.
Sadly, as with many fine research institutions of today, the real control of the Slough Institute rests in the hands of the Board of Finance. They are in charge of authorising funding for various research projects, teaching schemes, and any publishing of the works written by members of the Institute.
At the next level are the various senior researchers. This includes the various heads of faculties, and other longer-term personnel of the institute. It is these individuals who are usually in charge of applying for funding, whether it be for their own projects or as a senior “backer” of another. This leads to a single senior research being in charge of most things in the Institute, though their involvement in the project might be quite passive for some things.
Junior researchers are similar to senior researchers, but are usually only brought into the Institute for a single research project. Many of the people in question do go on to become senior researchers (indeed, the two most common routes to the positions are this or holding a similarly senior position at another Institution). That being said, they are often seen helping out with other aspects of the Institute, such as helping to teach classes, as they often have the relevant knowledge, while not being as busy as the Senior Researchers.
The final major “group” within the Slough Institute are the Troubleshooters, a nickname they've given themselves. While there is a variety of work done by the Troubleshooters, the bulk of it involves intervening with individuals or groups using magic in dangerous or aggressive way. Exactly what this means is determined by whoever's hiring them, though some Troubleshooters, frustrated by the ineffectiveness of legal channels against magical wrongdoers, have been known to take the law into their own hands. The Slough Institute charges a modest fee for support from a Troubleshooter. These fees, to some extent, finance the purely theoretical research and keep the library well-stocked. This has caused some tensions with the research staff, who are concerned with the ethical implications in this use of their research, but these individuals lack the power to motivate any change. Troubleshooters who successfully solve magical problems for others can expect favours from the Institute such as greater access to restricted library sections, opportunities to field test new inventions and seats at High Table. Where human and angelic law conflict, the Troubleshooters can find themselves in opposition to their usual allies the Hallowed Chamber. Relations between the two have been strained in recent years following the death of Kelly Smith, in which the Chamber were heavily implicated; nonetheless, they have worked together previously to take down considerable numbers of evildoers and the success of the Inverness Incident (2001) was largely owed to the partnership between the two factions.
There are also miscellaneous members of staff, mostly in charge of admin around Hawthorne House and the satellite Institutes. Other figures likely to be seen around in are students (of all ages) for the various classes. The small collection of historical magical items of interest also draws the occasional tourist, but this represents a tiny portion of the people milling about the buildings.
Eloise Fishburne is the head of finances. While technically in charge, they have been working towards making the Board seem less threatening, encouraging requests for funding for more imaginative projects. Ideas still have to be cleared by the board though, so don't expect to get funding for your “who would win in an eating contest, me or a demon” 'project'.
The head of junior researchers at the institute is in charge of coordinating the various applications, projects, and of course the Junior Researchers themselves. Alex Nibbs, the current holder of the title, has been in the position for over 30 years, and has been at the institute a lot longer, as one of the longest serving members of staff.
Since other Institutes have formed abroad, Slough has found a need for an International Coordinator. They work closely with all members of the Institute to develop projects, share research, and coordinate funding for any cross-institution study. The current International Coordinator is Henry Rautavaara, who entered the position just last year.
In as much as they have a leader, Lottie Yates is the leader of the Troubleshooters. It is well known they tend not to get on with many people outside the Troubleshooters, though for the sake of diplomacy they tend to to make more of an effort than some of the others.