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Cambridge University Library

 

Sources of information on men and women who have been students at Cambridge vary considerably in detail and location down the centuries.  Because Cambridge is a collegiate University, data may be found in the archives of the Colleges as well as in the University Archives.  Each College administers its own records. College contact details are online. If you do not know the College of membership of an individual, the central University records can act as an initial pointer.

By the fifteenth century, Colleges were beginning to admit and house male students though the University retained responsibility for the award of degrees.  Colleges therefore may retain information on a student’s origins and career after Cambridge while the University retains details of initial enrolment (‘matriculation’ as it is known) and degrees earned.  From the later nineteenth century onwards, College records may also include details of accommodation, teaching and membership of clubs and societies.  University records will be confined to formal dates of the start and finish of studies, examinations sat and degrees awarded.

These notes provide brief guidance on how to start researching an individual’s Cambridge connections.

  1. Biographical information on students up to 1900 was compiled from original sources in the University and Colleges by John and J.A. Venn and published as Alumni Cantabrigienses from the earliest times to 1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922-54) 10 volumes.
  2. Women were not admitted to formal membership of the University until 1948 and do not appear in Alumni Cantabrigienses.  For details of women students before then researchers should contact the archivists of the two Cambridge colleges open to women, Girton and Newnham.
  3. Both Alumni Cantabrigienses and the admissions registers for Girton and Newnham Colleges up to 1900 are now online as A Cambridge Alumni Database.
  4. For the period 1901-12, a list of student names with College of membership and dates of matriculation and graduation only was published as The book of matriculations and degrees 1901-1912 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915).
  5. For the period 1912-42, the same details were recorded, but not published, in ‘The book of matriculations and degrees, 1912-42’ (held in the University Archives, classmark: UA Degr.41-3).
  6. For the period ca 1880-ca 1965, student name and College, subjects of study and examination, examination results and dates of matriculation and graduation were inscribed in series of record cards, but not published (held in the University Archives, classmark: UA Graduati 12-34).
  7. For the period after ca 1965, when the student record cards were computerised, student data is held centrally by the University’s Student Registry (e-mail: student.registry@admin.cam.ac.uk).

If your enquiry relates to the period after 1901 and before ca 1965 and you do not know the College of membership of an individual, please contact Jacqueline Cox (jc10021@cam.ac.uk), Keeper of the University Archives.

Other information

Photographs

The University Archives does not hold one single, comprehensive series of photographs of alumni in the same way that many College archives preserve matriculation, graduation or year photographs. Instead, photographs of alumni can be found across the University Archives, particularly in the records of clubs and societies and in a general, catch-all series of photographs.

Clubs and societies

The University Archives holds the records of over 140 University clubs and societies ranging from the eighteenth century to the present day. The records range from traditional sports (athletics, cricket and rowing) to lesser-known sports (ice hockey, real tennis and archery), dramatic societies, musical and choral societies, recreational clubs, special interest groups and political societies. The records vary considerably in scope and content but typical classes of records include membership lists, records of meetings and account books, photograph albums and ephemera related to the activities of the society. For sporting achievement, H.M. Abrahams and J. Bruce-Kerr’s Oxford versus Cambridge: A Record of Inter-University Contests from 1827-1930 (London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1931) identifies students who were awarded Blues in inter-University sporting competitions up to 1930. There are no records of Blues awarded after 1930 in the University Archives.

World War One

To trace Cambridge alumni in World War One, G.V. Carey’s The War List of the University of Cambridge 1914-1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921) is the best source.

Honorary degrees

To trace the recipient of an honorary degree, consult the supplements to the Historical Register of the University of Cambridge (CUL classmark: 9240.d.1276-1283) which provide a list from 1859-2000. Accounts of the ceremonies at which degrees are awarded are published in the University’s newspaper, Cambridge University Reporter (CUL classmark: R241.40) indexed under ‘degree’ or ‘honoris causa’. From 1878/9, the Reporter reproduced the Latin orations delivered at the award ceremonies.

Personal papers

The University Archives holds the administrative records of the University and does not collect personal papers of members of the University. If such papers have been deposited with the University, it is likely they are held by the Department of Archives and Modern Manuscripts at the University Library or with the individual’s College.