Treasure Island in the Fens
Author(s): Nicholas Chrimes
Publication Date: 01-01-2012
Cambridge is much admired. Yet the admiration of those who live there, visit or were educated at the university is not always matched by an equivalent knowledge. Cambridge: Treasure Island in the Fens bridges that gap delightfully.
This study of both the town and the university reveals why some of the scholars fleeing from Oxford in 1209 settled in Cambridge and not in one of the cathedral cities with a more established reputation for learning. It shows both how the scholars overwhelmed the prosperous trading community of Cambridge through the astonishing privileges granted by the state and how the monasteries influenced the university up to the Reformation.
The colleges have amassed great wealth over the years. How it was acquired and retained is explained, as is how it was spent: not only on education but also on great architecture and vast gardens.
The exceptional contribution of women to the university’s development as founders, and their more recent roles as student and researcher, are explored. So, too, are the important achievements of the university’s scientists. The impact that other countries and visitors from overseas have made on the university, as well as, conversely, the role that Cambridge has had in shaping the wider world, are topics of great interest that are generally little-explored; they are discussed here.
Not everything about Cambridge is weighty and intellectual, however: student misbehaviour, along with the traditions of university sport, which extend back to the Tudors, are all given their due. Finally, the book reveals the deep imprint the university and town have made on the nation’s culture.
With its themed chapters, Cambridge: Treasure Island in the Fens is a very different ‘Cambridge book’ which will appeal to graduate, citizen and visitor alike.