Abstract This paper introduces Basic Intuitionistic Set Theory BIST, and investigates it as a first-order set theory extending the internal logic of elementary toposes. Given an elementary topos, together with the extra structure of a directed structural system of inclusions (dssi) on the topos, a forcing-style interpretation of the language of first-order set theory in the topos is given, which conservatively extends the internal logic of the topos. This forcing interpretation applies to an arbitrary elementary topos, since any such is equivalent to one carrying a dssi. We prove that the set theory BIST+Coll (where Coll is the strong Collection axiom) is sound and complete relative to forcing interpretations in toposes with natural numbers object (nno). Furthermore, in the case that the structural system of inclusions is superdirected, the full Separation schema is modelled. We show that all cocomplete and realizability toposes can (up to equivalence) be endowed with such superdirected systems of inclusions. A large part of the paper is devoted to an alternative notion of category-theoretic model for BIST, which, following the general approach of Joyal and Moerdijkʼs Algebraic Set Theory, axiomatizes the structure possessed by categories of classes compatible with BIST. We prove soundness and completeness results for BIST relative to the class-category semantics. Furthermore, BIST+Coll is complete relative to the restricted collection of categories of classes given by categories of ideals over elementary toposes with nno and dssi. It is via this result that the completeness of the original forcing interpretation is obtained, since the internal logic of categories of ideals coincides with the forcing interpretation.