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Writing The Cardinal’s College

Posted on June 20, 2012 by ClaireL

This month Judith Curthoys is our guest blogger; she tells us about her new book The Cardinal’s College.

In 2006, Christ Church published a ‘coffee-table’ book called Christ Church, Oxford: a portrait of the House.  It is a beautiful book, written by experts in various fields of Christ Church’s history, with short memoirs by recent alumni, and peppered throughout with glorious illustrations.  But it wasn’t a full history of the college.  The last one of those had been published in 1900 and, although there have been books on specific subjects like the reforms of the 19th century or the system of education in the 18th, it seemed time for a new comprehensive study.


As archivist, I am privileged to have access to all the administrative records of both college and cathedral going back to the foundation in 1546 and beyond. These are a mine of information just waiting to be dug into and for the nuggets to be found.  The book is based on the archival sources, and aims to tell the story of Christ Church, rather than to be an account of its great alumni.  There are well over a thousand Christ Church men in the Dictionary of National Biography, but The Cardinal’s College tries to tell the story of the ordinary student, what it was like to be an undergraduate, of the events that have shaped the college, rather than how its members shaped the country and even the world.  This is the task of biographers.


The restrictions of length imposed by the publishers meant that much has had to be omitted and it’s hoped that two more books will follow on the college’s buildings and on its estates.  Possibly even a fourth on the cathedral which so often gets missed out in the telling of Christ Church’s story!

For more information on the book or to buy click here.

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