Victor Morgan. A History of the University of Cambridge, Volume 2: 1546-1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. xxii + 613 pp. $130.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-521-35059-4.
Reviewed by Francis J. Bremer (History Department, Millersville University of Pennsylvania)
Published on H-Albion (September, 2005)
Cambridge Comes in Second Best
Readers of this work who begin by reading the "General Editor's Preface" may be discouraged from proceeding further, but that would be a mistake. Christopher Brooke, the General Editor of A History of the University of Cambridge and co-author of this volume, uses that preface to apologize and complain. This particular volume, he tells the reader, is not what was originally conceived and "is not a perfectly balanced book" (p. xiii). He draws attention to the superiority of The History of the University of Oxford, in part the result of the fact that Oxford "had the courage in the 1960s to form a department out of university resources to write the History" compared to "the failure of the Cambridge History Faculty to make even the most modest provision for research in the field" (p. xv). Brooke tells us that the consequences were particularly painful when it came to writing his own volume on the twentieth-century university. His Oxford counterpart had the benefit "of a marvelous database provided for him by the staff of the History--the envy of those of us who have had to work with much inferior tools in Cambridge" (p. xiv). To this he adds complaints about the reviewers of previous volumes and at the "tyrannical demands of the RAE" (p. xvi). As for this particular volume, it was begun by Victor Morgan. Delays and the growth of the manuscript led to what Brooke describes as a harvesting of the original manuscript and the addition by Brooke of various chapters and sections within chapters. The result is somewhat uneven and unbalanced. However, the volume is far from being as bad as all of this would have us fear and there are some valuable elements that will reward those interested in the history of the university and in the long seventeenth century in general.
An effort is made throughout the study to link the history of the university to the broader developments of the period, and this is clearly evident in the first chapter, written by both authors, where the case is made that the survival of the university was threatened by the Reformation. Morgan and Brooke discuss the implications of the impact on the colleges of the dissolutions of monastic orders, involving the closure of friaries and monastic halls of residence. But the site of the Dominican friary gave rise to Emmanuel, the Franciscan friary, which became Sidney Sussex, and the university came to play a key role in the transformation of England into a Protestant society.
Chapter 2, written by Brooke, backs off this broad perspective to examine the architecture of the university, including separate sections on the halls, chapels, and libraries of the colleges; the university library; and the Senate house. There is little new here, and Brooke acknowledges the comprehensiveness of Robert Willis's multi-volume The Architectural History of the University of Cambridge (1886). But he does an excellent job in relating the physical changes to the changes in the character of the colleges caused by the Reformation.
Chapter 3, by Victor Morgan, focuses on "The Constitutional Revolution of the 1570s," and deals with the reform of the university statutes in the Elizabethan era. Changes at both the university and college level originated with John Whitgift and Andrew Perne, and led to a shift of power to the heads of houses within the university and the same heads within their own colleges. The colleges became more important than the faculties, and the vice-chancellor emerged as an important figure as the governance of the university became more autocratic and less democratic. The connection between these changes in the university and the evolution of the Tudor state are more closely examined in the fourth chapter, also by Morgan, on "Cambridge University and the State." Recognizing the growing influence of the university on church and state, the government undertook efforts to control them. Deflecting efforts to create other academic centers and concentrating the publication of books at the two universities were means toward maintaining central control over religion and ideas. These efforts were less successful than some hoped because of the growing size of the university communities. Moreover, the changing social composition of the student body increasingly influenced changes in what was being taught, suggesting that the development of a university counter-culture may have "become both more necessary and more emphatic as the powers of those in authority were increased" (p. 143). Morgan does not, however, spend much time exploring the religious divisions in the state, the church, and the universities. Furthermore, the analysis of the emerging political order is dated, as might have been suspected from what we were told of the volume's long gestation. Though Michael Braddick's State Formation in Early Modern England, c.1550-1700 (2000) and Steve Hindle's The State and Social Change in Early Modern England, 1550-1640 (2000) are both listed in the volume's bibliography, their arguments do not influence Morgan's analysis in this or subsequent chapters.
In chapter 5 Morgan deals specifically with "Cambridge and Parliament." He finds two key themes here: the proprietorial attitude towards the university adopted by the aristocracy, and the attempt of many of them to use the universities in order to further the reformation of the church. He also explores numerous areas in which parliament concerned itself with the universities, such as investigations into corrupt college elections and criticisms of college masters. Morgan also treats the reasons why the universities sought representation in parliament, including their efforts to protect their corporate interests in lands and leases. Chapter 6 deals with "Cambridge and 'the Country,'" and is acknowledged to be an update of Morgan's 1975 article on the topic. He traces the connections between various localities and particular colleges in greater detail than is proportional with the focus of many of the other chapters. Again, some of the insights will seem dated to those who are familiar with recent scholarship on localities, though his insights on the effect of Cambridge experiences on the shaping of gentry sensibilities and views is important.
Chapter 7 is the first of three that look at the internal workings of the university, and focuses on town and gown relations. Morgan makes the key point that, like Oxford, Cambridge is not a prototypical local community in that the population was drawn from a wider area than that of a typical town and also because the university is oriented toward the ideas of the day. He explores the effect on the town of the physical and population growth of the colleges as well as the significance of the changing social composition of the university (i.e., the rising number of sons of gentry families). Chapter 8 deals with "Heads, Leases and Masters' Lodges." This includes discussion of how the rising authority of the heads of houses led to changes in the internal architecture of the colleges, and particularly the building of separate quarters for the heads. He suggests that this, in turn, may have contributed to making the exercise of their authority more difficult. His examination of the financial affairs of the colleges is thorough if perhaps too detailed for most readers. The chapter also treats the role of women, including Masters' wives, in the colleges. Chapter 9 argues for the decline over this period of the intimate relationship between "Tutors and Students" that had characterized the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Morgan suggests that "enthusiasm for shared theological concerns combined to produce intense personal relationships between some tutors and some students" (p. 326) in the early part of the period (and talks about John Preston and other noted puritan tutors), yet he fails to explore the particular character of those religious concerns and some of the ways in which they shaped relationships.
Chapters 10 and 11, the last two by Morgan, deal with college elections to fellowships and masterships. Chapter 10 begins with the Cambridge scene--examining the process of elections, pecuniary motives, violence and coercion--and then moves on to outside intervention. The practice of issuing crown mandates in elections is the subject of Chapter 11. Both of these chapters repeat a good deal of information touched upon in earlier treatments of the university and the evolving state.
The final chapters are by Christopher Brooke and deal with "Learning and Doctrine, 1550-1660" (chapter 12), "Cambridge in the Age of the Puritan Revolution" (chapter 13), "Cambridge and the Scientific Revolution" (chapter 14), and "The Syllabus, Religion and Politics 1660-1750" (chapter 15). These are all disappointing in certain respects. Brooke relies heavily on and directs readers to other works. Referring to the new learning and insight into the "very complex interplay of theology and politics ecclesiastical and secular" (p. 445) to be found in the works of Nicholas Tyacke, Peter Lake, Peter White, Anthony Milton, and others, he states that "this makes any extensive study of these polemics redundant in this book" (p. 445). He rightly refers to the significance of Sean Hughes's "'The Problem of Calvinism': English Theologies of Predestination c. 1580-1630," but does not use that article to shed light specifically on Cambridge. There is no discussion whatsoever within the controversies surrounding the teachings of Peter Baro or William Barrett of how those disputes shaped the Lambeth Articles. Elsewhere readers are referred to Patrick Collinson's chapters in the history of Emmanuel that Brooke co-authored and to John Twigg's work on seventeenth-century Cambridge. These chapters also see a shift in the style of the work to mini-biographies of figures such as Robert Brady, Isaac Newton, and Richard Bentley.
In sum, as Brooke himself acknowledges, this is not a perfectly balanced book. It shows the scars of the surgery that was necessary to bring it to fruition. Some chapters and sections delve into minute detail in order to offer new insights from archival material, while others barely touch upon significant events in the history of the university and the nation. Unfortunately, as Brooke seems to have feared, it suffers from comparison to The History of the University of Oxford, IV: Seventeenth Century Oxford (1997) edited by Nicholas Tyacke.
. See, for the latter, Joseph P. Ward, "Review of Steve Hindle, The State and Social Change in Early Modern England c.1550-1640," H-Albion, H-Net Reviews, August, 2000, <http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=16716966265590>.
. Sean Hughes, "'The Problem of Calvinism': English Theologies of Predestination c. 1580-1630," in Belief and Practice in Reformation England, ed. Susan Wabuda and Caroline Litzenberger (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998).
. S. Bendall, C. N. L. Brooke, and P. Collinson, A History of Emmanuel College, Cambridge (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1999); and J. Twigg, The University of Cambridge and the English Revolution, 1625-1688 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1990).
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Francis J. Bremer. Review of Morgan, Victor, A History of the University of Cambridge, Volume 2: 1546-1750.
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