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Cambridge University Archives

 Management Group
Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA

Scope and Contents

The University Archives is responsible for the selection and preservation of the internal administrative records of the University of Cambridge, dating from 1266 to the present, and for making them available for administrative and research purposes. The archives are as diverse in their contents as the activities - self governance, teaching and research, property management, student administration, administration of justice, external relations - the University has pursued down the centuries. They include charters, statutes and title deeds, records of its legislative and executive bodies, central administration, Syndicates and committees, departments and faculties, students and law courts.


  • Creation: 1266 - 2022


Conditions Governing Access

The University Archives are generally freely available to the holder of a reader's ticket for the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. Restrictions on access are imposed on certain categories of sensitive record: financial, governmental and personal, by order of the originating body or under data protection legislation. Access information, including opening hours and how to obtain a reader's ticket, appears as part of the Library's web site (

Conditions Governing Use

Requests to publish text should be addressed to the Keeper of University Archives, photographs to the Head of the Digital Content Unit, both at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR

Biographical / Historical

The University of Cambridge was established in 1209 by the migration of scholars from the University of Oxford. For background information, see the History of the University of Cambridge, edited by C.N.L. Brooke (CUP, 1988-2004) 4 volumes, as well as a Concise History of the University of Cambridge, by Elisabeth Leedham-Green (CUP, 1996).


4000 linear metre(s) : paper, vellum, glass & film neg, audio &video tape

Language of Materials



French, Middle (ca.1400-1600)


The University Archives are arranged in classes in common with other materials housed in the University Library. The classes comprise distinct bodies of records, or fonds to use archival parlance, in many cases, chiefly in the records of departments and faculties. However, they have also been assigned to records with the same diplomatic form, such as plans or minute books, or to records relating to the same subject, such as University relations with the town, regardless of provenance. To ease navigation and browsing of the classes, they have been grouped by function into 6 categories: corporate management; teaching, learning and research; assets; judicial administration; student administration and research; external relations.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

In generally good condition throughout; certain categories of paper Court records reserved in view of their fragility.

Other Finding Aids

For a detailed published list of the holdings in hard copy, see D.M.Owen, Cambridge University Archives: a classified list (Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

It is known from the earliest surviving list of the University's muniments, compiled in 1420, that such records were then housed in the vestry of the chapel above the Regent House. This list was probably drawn up by the University treasurer, known as a Proctor. From 1506, when the office was created, until 1977, the University's records were the responsibility of the Registrary [sic]. Major advances in systematic record-keeping - consolidating, sorting and listing - were made during the registraryships of Lynford Caryl in the mid 18th century and Joseph Romilly, Henry Richards Luard and John Willis Clark from the mid to late 19th century. In 1972, the archives were transferred from the Registry to the University Library. They were fully integrated into its holdings in 1977. Records are now regularly transferred from the offices and divisions of the central administration, and from the schools, faculties, departments, research institutions and Press. The majority of University Archives are permanent transfers from the orginating department or division within Cambridge University. Others are gifts from student societies, alumni or College archivists.


Records are appraised against the University's records retention schedule before transfer.


Additions to all classes are regularly received from across the University.

Existence and Location of Copies

A small but increasing number of items have been digitised and added to Cambridge University Digital Library (

Related Materials

The personal papers of many prominent Cambridge academics are held in the Manuscripts section of the Department of Archives and Modern Manuscripts.


For historical overviews of the archives, see H.E.Peek and C.P.Hall, The archives of the University of Cambridge (CUP 1962) and Elisabeth Leedham-Green The University Archives (what are they, anyway?) in Peter Fox (ed.) Cambridge University Library. The Great Collections (CUP, 1998). Several early records series have been published in part; among them the original statutes of the University dating from the mid 13th century, Grace Books' A, B, Gamma and Delta recording official decisions of the University, 1454-1589, and letters patent of Elizabeth and James I, 1561-1605.


University of Cambridge

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom