Tudor England: The University of Cambridge

Trinity College, University of Cambridge (The most notable Tudor Era graduate was Sir Francis Walsingham, Principal Secretary and Spy Master to Queen Elizabeth I.
University of Cambridge is the second oldest university in the English speaking world, and the seventh oldest in world history. Located in Cambridge, England, the university was founded in 1209 by a group of scholars who left Oxford University due to a town dispute. The quality of education at Cambridge is consistently rated the best in the world by a variety of university ranking associations, and draws brilliant students world wide. As a testament to this, 65 graduates of Cambridge have won the Nobel Peace prize, the highest number of any college or university. Currently, approximately 18,400 students attend full time completing undergraduate and graduate studies at the university’s colleges. Some notable Tudor Era graduates included: Frances Bacon, Francis Walsingham, Thomas Cranmer, John Dee, Robert Devereux, Henry Howard, Christopher Marlowe, Matthew Parker and Desiderius Eramesus.

The University of Cambridge is a collegiate university. As such, Cambridge consists of a number of independent self-governing colleges with their own property, endowments and operational budgets. Each college appoints it’s own teaching staff and fellows, and implements it’s own admissions policies. There are currently 31 colleges at the University of Cambridge, with the following providing education to European young men from primarily wealthy families during the Tudor Era: King’s College, Trinity College, St. John’s College, Corpus Christi College, Queen’s College, St. Catherine’s College, Jesus College, Christ’s College, Magdalene College, and Emmanuel College.

Following a Roman Catholic tradition, during medieval times, many colleges were formed so that those attending could pray for the souls of the benefactors, and were strongly associated by chapels and abbeys. A major change in the focus of the university took place in 1536, due to Thomas Cromwell’s dissolution of the monasteries, resulting in King Henry VIII terminating the faculty of canon law. In response, colleges adapted their course selections to the classics, the Bible and mathematics. In years prior to and through the reign of King Edward VI, the historical emphasis on Roman Catholicism transitioned to Protestantism, and intellectuals from the university, most notably Thomas Cranmer, later Arch Bishop of Canterbury, were instrumental is setting the philosophical and spiritual basis underpinning the Protestant Reformation.

The traditional Tudor education at the University of Cambridge included studies in the following disciplines: Philosophy, Rhetoric, Poetics, Natural History, Grammar. Logic, Music, Astronomy, Mathematics, Geometry, Theology, Medicine and Law. With the consent of King Henry VIII,  students of the nobility commonly traveled throughout Europe — the Tudor Era equivalent of “study abroad”. During the Tudor Era, scholars became much more interested in the study of secular disciplines rather than religion. Educators of the Humanist school of thought became prevalent, with emphasis given on Greek and early Latin classical literature. Humanist educators created new teaching methods, and Cambridge graduate Desiderius Eramesus was particularly influential. Eramesus believed that discuss literature, it’s meaning and nuances, was far more important than route memorization of it. He encouraged the study of archaeology, astronomy, mythology, history, and Scripture.

Beth von Staats

is the owner and administrator of QueenAnneBoleyn.com. Blogger of "The Tudor Thomases", Beth specializes in writing magazine articles, online historical articles, short stories, and flash fiction.

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