Guide to the College Archives

Charles II on a document concerning Eton Fellowships and King's College

Henry VI's grand plan for the layout and buildings of his new College envisaged a Muniment Tower, originally on four stories, for the keeping of records. The Founder's architectural designs went unfulfilled, however, and for several centuries the archives occupied five of the Chapel's southern side chapels. It is only since the middle of this century that they have enjoyed purpose-built accommodation and since 1993 that they have been housed in the Library proper.

 


 


 

Administrative History and Contents

From its foundation by Henry VI in 1441 to the present day, King's College has preserved records of its internal administration, the construction of its buildings, the management of its manors and advowsons, and the lives of its members. The archives offer researchers outstanding sources for the study of architecture, religious upheaval, patterns of consumption, development of the curriculum, social and political history. For example:

  • Commons books documenting Kingsmen dining in Hall, dating back to 1447. In 2006 the Cookson Trust funded research which resulted in an article on Dining at King's College in the 15th Century, and a translation of part of the 15th century dining accounts (see below).
  • Ledger books containing copies of wills and conveyances, dating back to 1451. An index to the probate records held in these ledger books can be found below.
  • Mundum books recording payments for goods and services, dating back to 1447
  • Protocollum books recording admission of Scholars and Fellows, dating back to 1500

Some records in the College Archives are subject to access restrictions.

Wider Access

An unavoidable consequence of shifting exile has been comparative ignorance of the contents of the College Archives among the scholarly community and their under-use as a research tool. Efforts are now underway to reverse that situation. The tour of the College archives (link below) shows selected documents from the College archives, focusing on four broad areas: biography, religion, buildings, and estates. Also from the appropriate links below you can find out about the records of the estates of the College which were catalogued on-line in 2005 thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, or you can read what the Librarian and Archivist wrote about the moves afoot to uncover the College's written memory, in the Summer of 1998.

From biographies to buildings, there is a rich variety of source material located within the College archives.
Introductory leaflet for an exhibition of documents from the College Archives, written on 17 July 1998.
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Our Heritage Lottery Fund project to improve access to the College's estates records, which form a vital part of the College's history.
Students viewing an exhibition of Rupert Brooke papers.
Our beginner’s guide to archives for A-level students, as well as bright and motivated GCSE students.

Main Sections of the Catalogue

The online catalogue of the records is available from the Janus website, for which see 'Links' below.

Reference Code Description

KCGB

Governing Records (Statutes and Committee Minutes), 1443-2013

KCAR     Administrative Records (Non-Academic), 1085-current
KCAC     Academic and Tutorial Records, 1440-current
KCAS                     Records of 40 Clubs and Societies of King's College and Cambridge University, 1855-2017
KCHR     Historical Reference (Notes and Publications Based upon the College Archives), 1449-current
KCPH Photographs (of the Choir), 1860-2013
Links to our online guides and exhibitions, as well as our "Introduction to Archives" - a beginner's resource for school pupils.
Index page to the Archive Centre's online exhibitions, which each highlight a particular aspect of the College's history.
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Our Heritage Lottery Fund project to improve access to the College's estates records, which form a vital part of the College's history.
The personal paper collections of famous Kingsmen are especially strong in early 20th century literature, fine art and economics.