The Regius Professorship of Modern History was instituted by George I in 1724. The professor was to maintain, out of his stipend of £400, at least two teachers of modern languages who were to give free instruction to twenty scholars nominated by the King, one of the aims being to equip graduates for diplomatic service. This aspect of the endowment soon fell into disuse. The professor was also to give public lectures. Before the mid-nineteenth century, the Chair was occupied by diverse individuals, among them the poet Thomas Gray and novelist Charles Kingsley, few of whom were interested in historical study. With the development of the discipline internationally however and the broadening of the undergraduate curriculum, the subject began to be more formally studied. It was examined as part of the Moral Sciences Tripos from 1851-67. From 1870-4 it was examined as a joint Tripos with Law. From 1875, History was established as an independent Tripos.
The Board charged with overseeing the Tripos and appointing teachers in the subject had no permanent independent home until the building of the History Faculty on the Sidgwick Site in the mid 1960s. Instead, in the early decades, it met in the Syndicate Room in the Old Schools, other University Offices or the Chairman's College. Similarly, academic staff taught and lectured in University rooms all over Cambridge or in their own Colleges. The Seeley Memorial Library was accommodated at King's College from 1891 until 1913 when it became the core of a departmental library housed initially on the second floor of the University Lecture Rooms on Bene't Street and later in the Cockerell Building. In 1963, the design of a new History Faculty building, which would include accommodation for the Library, was the subject of a limited competition. The winning design was conceived by James Stirling (1926-92). The building was completed in 1968 and awarded a R.I.B.A. (Royal Institute of British Architects) Gold Medal in 1970. For background information on the development of historical studies, see Peter R.H. Slee Learning and a liberal education: the study of Modern History in the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester 1800-1914 (Manchester University Press: Manchester, 1986).
The records document the full range of institutional operations, from delivery of the curriculum and examining at undergraduate and graduate level, to design and upkeep of the faculty buildings. Papers on Tripos reform are particularly extensive. They include the papers of the Cambridge Historical Society.
The records were transferred from the Faculty by Mr Julian Evans, Administrator, on 23 October 2002. These records are a permanent transfer to the University Archives. The Historical Society papers (now catalogued as HIST 6/12-14) were presented to G.W.J. Rennie, Faculty Secretary and Society Treasurer and thence to the Faculty, by Professor Geoffrey Elton's estate in March 2002. HIST 2/12A was presented by Professor D.E.D. Beales in 1999. HIST 2/75 was presented by Professor J. Caplan on 6 Sept. 2012.
Regular future transfers are planned.
The records were appraised before transfer in accordance with the departmental records retention schedule.
The records are arranged in categories corresponding to the Faculty's broad functions.