Cambridge University

Cambridge University
   In the 16th and 17th centuries, Cambridge University became associated with the Protestant and then the Puritan cause. The university dates to the 13th century, when several monastic orders settled in the area. In 1231, King Henry III granted it a writ of governance. As with all European universities, theology was always a key subject in the curriculum.
   Early in the 16th century, a number of the future leaders of the Reformation in England studied at Cambridge, including William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicolas Ridley. Among Continental Protestant figures, Martin Bucer taught at Cambridge and Erasmus disseminated many of his humanist ideas from Cambridge during his lengthy professorship.
   In 1569-70, Cambridge became the focal point for a Presbyterian form of Puritanism advocated by Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603), who held a professorship there. Cartwright left the university after being deprived of his fellowship in 1571, but his influence helped bring a new wave of Calvinism to England, as a new generation of graduates, many of whom entered the church (such as Richard Rogers, John Dod, and Arthur Hildersham), began to influence the intellectual life of the country. One of Cartwright's students, Robert Browne, is generally seen as the founder of Puritan Congregationalism.
   The Puritan movement became more firmly established at Cambridge in 1584 with the foundation of Emmanuel College by Sir Walter Mild-may. He saw the college producing many ministers "fit for the administration of the Divine Word and Sacraments." Emmanuel was led by a series of outstanding Puritan spokespersons such as Laurence Chaderton (c. 1546-1640), the first master, and John Preston (1587-1628).
   The vacuum caused by Cartwright's departure was filled by William Perkins (1558-1602). Perkins became a student at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1577, where he experienced a great religious transformation, At age 24, he was made a fellow of his college; his preaching at St. Andrew's Church in Cambridge had enormous influence. Among those directly affected by Perkins was William Ames, who later wrote one of the most influential Puritan works, A Marrow of Sacred Theology (1623).
   By the end of the 16th century, Cambridge was the major disseminating point for Puritan thinking, through its colleges and the ministers they trained. In the early 17th century, Thomas Hooker, John Winthrop, Peter Hobart, and Roger Williams, among the leaders of the New England Puritan colonists, were all trained at Cambridge. They named one of their new towns Cambridge and located Harvard university there. John Harvard had himself attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
   The English Civil War brought Cambridge to center stage. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of a Puritanized England, was a graduate of Sidney Sussex College and was also the local member of Parliament from Cambridge. Among the Cambridge graduates he would appoint to important positions in his government was the Puritan poet John Milton.
   After the Restoration, the great era of Cambridge Puritanism slowly died away, though the tendency never completely disappeared. Charles Simeon (1759-1836), an Anglican influenced by the Evangelical Awakening (Methodism), graduated from Cambridge in 1782 and became the priest in charge of Trinity Church in Cambridge. During his 50 years of tenure, he encouraged a number of men to enter foreign missions work, and he became one of the founders of both the Church Missionary Society and the Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews, and he established a fund to assist young men going into the ministry.
   See also United Kingdom.
   Further reading:
   ■ Stephen Foster, The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570-1700 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996)
   ■ William Haller, The Rise of Puritanism; or The Way to New Jerusalem as Set Forth in Pulpit and Press from Thomas Cartwright to John Lilburne and John Milton, 1570-1643. (New York: Harper, & Row 1957)
   ■ Elisabeth Leedham-Green, A Concise History of the University of Cambridge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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