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Personal Papers of Helen Maud Cam, 1895 - 1995

Reference Code: GBR/0271/GCPP Cam

Scope and Contents

The papers comprise personal and biographical records; correspondence; academic records; and records of the International Commission for the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions.


  • Creation: 1895 - 1995


Biographical / Historical

Helen Maud Cam [HMC] was born on 22 August 1885 in Abingdon, the fourth of nine children of the Reverend William Herbert and Kate Cam. The family moved to Birchanger in Essex in 1893. Educated at home, HMC then studied history at Royal Holloway College in London from 1904-1907. A fellowship in history at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, from 1908-9, was followed by three years teaching at Cheltenham Ladies' College. She returned to Royal Holloway College as a lecturer in 1912 and remained there for 10 years. It was during this period that she began research on local government in the 13thC, publishing Studies in the Hundred Rolls: Some Aspects of Thirteenth-Century Administration in 1921. In 1921, HMC was offered the Pfeiffer Research Fellowship by Girton College, Cambridge, in order to continue her research into the Hundred Rolls. She was recognised from the mid-1920s onwards as a leading authority on medieval local government. She published The Hundred and The Hundred Rolls in 1930. After this there were very few further full-length books but her output of articles and papers was prolific. HMC remained at Girton until 1948, undertaking both teaching and research. She became, in 1937, the first woman to gain the title of the Cambridge LittD. She supported numerous projects, including Romsey Town Labour Club in Cambridge and Hillcroft College for Working Women in Surbiton. A sabbatical year from Cambridge in 1936-37 took her as far afield as India. She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1945. HMC was appointed to the Zemurray Radcliffe chair of history at Harvard University in 1948, thus becoming Harvard's first female professor. On her retirement in 1954, she set up home with her sister Norah in Sevenoaks, Kent. Much of her time in 'retirement' was spent on work for the International Commission for the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions, of which she had become President in 1949. Outside academic history, HMC enjoyed literature of a wide variety, including detective fiction. She published a pamphlet entitled 'Historical Novels' in 1961, the result of a lifelong fascination with the genre. The study of law also occupied much of her retirement years, giving her the opportunity to 'justify a long-standing devotion'. In particular, she edited for the Selden Society the records of the London Eyre of 1321. Helen Cam died in Kent in February 1968.


54 archive box(es) (54 boxes) : paper

Language of Materials



The papers are arranged as Cam1: Personal and biographical; Cam 2: Correspondence; Cam 3: Academic; Cam 4: International Commission for the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions.

Other Finding Aids

A full list of all the papers was compiled in 2002. This has built on and improved the partial lists, chiefly of personal, biographical and academic records, which were compiled in the 1970s. The list is available in both Word and a Microsoft Access database. There is also a composite name index to the collection which is available as a Word document. The user should refer to this to trace all references to a given individual, particularly correspondents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of HMC's papers were deposited in the archives in Girton College Library after her death. Some were probably bequeathed by HMC herself, others donated by surviving members of the family.

Related Materials

Further Cam papers are believed to be held elsewhere, as follows: 1) the Bodleian Library in Oxford holds letters from HMC to family members (ca. 100 letters in box, 1891-1967, including travel letters from the period of HMC's sabbatical leave in the 1930s), also offprints of articles (collected by Roger Harkness?, deposited ca. 1985); 2) the Schlesinger Library of Harvard University holds letters, articles, pamphlets and photographs, 1928-68, amounting to a "half file box"; 3) Royal Holloway College in London holds a small quantity of HMC's papers (1 box); 4) Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge has material concerning HMC's career at Harvard and her interests after retirement (4 boxes).


For further background, see Janet Sondheimer, 'Helen Maud Cam, 1885-1968' in 'Cambridge Women: Twelve Portraits', ed. Edward Shils and Carmen Blacker, CUP, 1996; C R Cheney, 'Helen Maud Cam 1885-1968', in Proceedings of the British Academy 55 (1969); 'In Memoriam: Helen Cam 1885-1968' in the Girton Review 1969; Euan Taylor and Gina Weaver, 'Helen Maud Cam (1885-1968): Charting the Evolution of Medieval Institutions' in 'Women Medievalists in the Academy' ed. Jane Chance, Brill, 2004 and Euan Taylor, University of Cambridge PhD thesis on HMC, completed 2001. Helen Cam is also said to feature in Amanda Cross, 'A Death in the Faculty', London: Gollancz, 1981.


Cam, Helen Maud, 1885-1968, Medieval Historian

Finding aid date

2002-05-05 19:30:29+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Girton College Archive Repository

The Archivist
Girton College Archive
Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 0JG United Kingdom
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