Explorations in the history of Cambridge by Ged Martin

The history of Cambridge is one of my interests. Over the decades, I have written about University life in the nineteenth century, the debates of the Cambridge Union, and episodes relating to Hughes Hall, King's and (especially) Magdalene. In addition, I have tried to understand some of the people connected with those institutions. 

A few of the discussions have been published in books or journals, and are included on the Published Work section of website, www.gedmartin.net. Others are included in the Martinalia section of draft and unpublished essays and notes (https://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3)

A separate list deals with History of Magdalene College Cambridge (https://www.gedmartin.net/martinalia-mainmenu-3/372-magdalene-history-on-ged-martin-s-website). There is some overlap between the two. There are over 40 articles, chapters, essays and notes in total. 

In The Cambridge Union and Ireland, 1815-1914 (2000), I attempted an assessment of the relationship between the University and the Town, and an evocation of undergraduate life and study. "Going Up To Jesus": A Note on Terminology is, I hope, self-explanatory (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-introduction)

The Town and the University (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-chapter-2) and The Undergraduate World (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-chapter-3) attempted a general evocation of university life. 

Cambridge, Catholicism and the Irish discussed the University of Cambridge as an "English" (rather than "British") institution.


The Cambridge fever: the closure of Cambridge University during the Easter Term of 1815. During the Easter Term (April and May) 1815, the University of Cambridge effectively closed down as an undergraduate institution, in response to a local epidemic, loosely referred to as the "Cambridge fever". This essay explores the course of the outbreak, and examines the decision-making processes through which the University determined its responses. Some reference is made to later health crises, such as the outbreak of typhoid at Gonville and Caius College in 1873. Some thematic connections are suggested with the challenge of 2020.


The Cambridge American Lectureship of 1866. In 1866, Masters of Arts (who, in those days, exercised ultimate authority) voted to reject an endowment that would have supported a visiting lecturer in American Studies. It is not one of Cambridge's stellar moments. The article was published in the Journal of American Studies (1973).


The Cambridge Training College for Women Teachers: the founding decade 1885-1895. Hughes Hall is now one of the University's largest colleges for postgraduates and mature students. It began on a small-scale, on the fringes of Cambridge, with the aim of training educated women for the classroom. The story of its first decade is based on chapters 1-5 of Hughes Hall Cambridge, 1885-2010 (2011).


The Cambridge Arabic Prize, 1917. In 1917, the University was offered an endowment to fund a prize in Arabic. The donor specified that the award must not go to Jews, and the offer was rejected. In appreciation of the gesture, members of the UK Jewish community subscribed an identical sum to establish the fund. 


The Cambridge Union: Sources and Rivals. The Cambridge Union Society was formed in 1815, but grew out of earlier essay-reading clubs. The Cambridge Union and Ireland, 1815-1914 begins by placing it in the context of two other societies, the Oxford Union and the Cambridge Apostles. 


The Early Years of the Cambridge Union. The Union led a bumpy and partly underground existence until 1821. 


The Union and its Debates 1821-1914. An evaluation of its debates requires some assessment of its various phases – as a student society, with a constant turnover of active members, its ethos could change considerably within a short time – and of its physical moves around the town, culminating in the opening of the core of the present building in 1866.


Oratory and Opinion. One obvious objection to studying debate records as evidence of opinion is that immature students might be easily swept off their feet by sparkling but superficial speeches. The evidence does not bear out this concern.


Debates on Ireland are discussed in three chapters. taking the story to the 1921 Treaty. The Irish Debates 1816-1885 takes the story to the eve of the Home Rule crisis of 1886 (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-chapter-8). Gladstonian Home Rule 1886-1898 follows the controversy until it lapsed in the late 1890s (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-chapter-9Ireland in the New Century traces how  opposition to Home Rule gradually declined, as Irish devolution ceased to seem threatening. (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-chapter-10). Tailpiece: War 1914-18 and Troubles 1919-21 takes the story to the 1921 Treaty (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-tailpiece). 

The Conclusion asks some wider questions about political leadership and political biography (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-chapter-11) .An appendix and tables provide further information about levels of interest aroused in various topics, and the longer-term division of opinion upon major issues. Analysis begins from the 1860s, when political themes came to dominate student debates: Appendix: numbers voting at Cambridge Union debates 1863-1914 (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-appendix); Tables (https://www.gedmartin.net/the-cambridge-union-and-ireland-1815-1914-tables).

Lazarus Cohen: a Jewish trader in Victorian Cambridge traces the career of one of the founders of the Cambridge synagogue in 1847. 


Magdalene College Cambridge Notes: Louisa Duffy, bedmaker and linguist. Louisa Duffy (née Freeman) escaped from a violent childhood in Castle Street to become lady's maid in Germany during the 1870s. After returning to Cambridge, she became a Magdalene bedmaker. When three German professors were billeted in the College during an international conference in 1898, she acted as  interpreter for the College.


Magdalene College Cambridge Notes: James Stearn, the head porter who died of grief recalls the Magdalene Head Porter, James Stearn, who was shattered by the death of his son while serving in the Royal Navy during the First World War. 


A.C. Benson and Cambridge: I, 1862-1884 is the first section of a substantial two-part essay, which emphasises the baleful and damaging influence of Benson's intimidating father, and explore the crisis that almost overwhelmed him while he was an undergraduate at King's.


A.C. Benson and Cambridge: II, 1885-1925 deals with his years as a master at Eton, and his subsequent return to Cambridge, as a Fellow and, later, Master of Magdalene. His copious writings, in books, newspapers and magazines, are used to illustrate his ideas on such unexpected subjects as socialism, reincarnation and the hanging of Crippen. Discussions are also attempted of his sexuality, his views on religion and his mental health.


Magdalene College Cambridge Notes: the visit of the Duke of Wellington, 1842 recalls the Iron Duke's visit to Cambridge  in July 1842. 


Magdalene College Cambridge Notes: Magdalene undergraduate was the world's top batsman describes an inter-College cricket match on Parker's Piece in 1881, which produced a world record highest score that stood for 14 years. 


How the banks wooed student customers: Cambridge, 1966 looks at eight advertisements in the Varsity Handbook for 1966 by banks hustling for new custom.


Charles Stewart Parnell on www.gedmartin.net contains a number of essays and notes on the academic record, student experience and rustication of the future Irish leader.