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Biographical / Historical
The study of certain oriental languages in Cambridge dates back to the early days of the University. The Regius Professorship of Hebrew was founded in 1540 and the Sir Thomas Adams's Professorship of Arabic in 1632. The study of languages from further east dates from the later half of the nineteenth century when there was a surge of interest in philology, in part as people became aware of the work in this field done by continental scholars, and in part as a result of colonial interests in India. The existence of missionary interests and trade gave rise to the development of studies in Far-Eastern languages in Cambridge, in the late nineteenth century in the case of Chinese and in the mid-twentieth century in the case of Japanese. Interest in the languages of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, originally studied in connection with Hebrew, flourished from the early years of the twentieth century.
Until the late nineteenth century the number of orientalists in Cambridge was very small. Although there was no organised teaching at this time, many of these early scholars made significant contributions to the progress of European oriental scholarship. In 1867 the first chair of Sanskrit was founded; this was held by Edward Cowell. Undergraduate studies were formally organised from the late 1870s with the establishment of the Semitic Languages Tripos in 1877 and the Indian Languages Tripos is 1878. From 1895, the Oriental Languages Tripos took their place.
The first permanent home of oriental languages in Cambridge was in Downing Place. Here, from 1935, teaching in oriental studies took place in three rooms which served as combined lecture rooms and library. In 1947, the publication of the Scarbrough Report, which reviewed the state of the teaching of oriental languages in British universities, had a far-reaching effect in Cambridge. The report supported the maintenance and improvement of the already existing strong academic tradition of teaching the language and literature, but also recommended the development of appropriate training to ensure a balance between language and cultural studies and between classical and modern languages. As a result of the implementation of the Scarbrough Report recommendations, which included extra teaching posts, it became apparent that the premises in Downing Street had become too small for teaching purposes. Plans were made to move to more spacious accommodation in Brooklands Avenue, close to the railway station, where a large four-storey house was purchased by the University in 1948. With the exception of teaching in Egyptology and the Egyptology library, which remained in Downing Place until the 1960s, the teaching and library facilities moved there in 1948 and became the Institute of Oriental Studies, now with a broader cultural basis including archaeological and historical studies. The Hayter Report, published in 1961, encouraged the growth of 'area studies'. The range of subjects taught in the Institute expanded once again; Indian history and Hindi were first introduced in the 1960s. The Institute moved to the new Sidgwick Site during the summer of 1968; at this point it was renamed the Faculty of Oriental Studies. More recently the Faculty has benefited from the recommendations of the Parker Report 'Speaking for the Future', published in 1968, which set out requirements for training in Asian and African languages. This resulted in an increased number of teaching posts and financial support for the Faculty Library.
In March 2007, the Faculty was retitled the Faculty of East Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. For background information, see the Faculty's web site: http://www.ames.cam.ac.uk/