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Archives of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, 1866 - 1999

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/ORS

Scope and Contents

The records document the full range of institutional operations from delivery of the curriculum to upkeep of the faculty buildings. They comprise the minutes and papers of various faculty committees and extensive subject files maintained by administrators.


  • Creation: 1866 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

Each file or volume in the archive is closed to scholars for 30 years from the date of creation, except with the permission of the Keeper of Archives and Modern Manuscripts, as a condition of transfer. In addition, personal records are closed to scholars for 80 years from the date of creation under data protection legislation.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests to publish text should be addressed to the Keeper of University Archives, Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR.

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:


15 linear metre(s) : paper

Language of Materials



At the Faculty, the majority of the subject files were given alphanumeric references depending on the initial letter of the file title (eg. E9 Electors) and stored in one long sequence. The bound volumes of agendas, minutes and papers were stored separately. To assist researchers however, the files and volumes have now been arranged in categories corresponding to the Faculty's broad functions. Original faculty filing references are recorded where given.

Other Finding Aids

A preliminary hard copy list of the first transfer was completed in 1993. In 2002, after the second transfer, the entire body of records was rearranged, reclassified and a new catalogue produced in line with the requirements of data protection legislation.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The records were transferred from the Faculty to the University Archives in two tranches: the first by Mrs D.M. Bennett in January 1993 and the second by Mr M. Bridger in May 2001. These records are a permanent transfer to the University Archives.


Unsolicited, unsuccessful job applications (catalogued as ORS 22) have been destroyed in accordance with data protection legislation at the time of new cataloguing, 2002.

Related Materials

See also the following related records among the University Archives: CMES; CUR 28.12-13; VC Corr.V.9/3.


This online catalogue was completed in 2002 and emended in January and May 2005, January 2006, August 2007 and July 2010.


Faculty of Oriental Studies

Finding aid date

1998-05-05 16:28:16+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom