Cambridge: Then and Now

10 July 2001

Co­in­ci­den­tally enough, the day after the newswires report that Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity is testing their students’ Bee Gees knowledge, Dad finds a nicely bound volume of all the exam papers given at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity between Michael­mas Term 1899 and Easter Term 1900.

I’ve been flip­ping through it all day. (Yes, I’ve been reading exam papers for enjoyment.) This is the English Essay com­po­nent of the “Previous Examination” (I can’t figure out what this is, exactly–is it the en­trance exam?):

Thursday, March 22, 1900. 1–3½.


Write an English Essay on one of the fol­low­ing subjects:

  1. English country life in the 18th century.
  2. The battle of Blenheim.
  3. The char­ac­ter of Rachel Lady Castlewood.
  4. Duelling.

They want a two-and-a-half hour essay on “duelling”? (Rachel Lady Castle­wood is ap­par­ently a char­ac­ter in The History of Henry Esmond, by Thackeray.)

This is from the “Law of Con­tract and Tort” exam:

5. Under what cir­cum­stances is a prin­ci­pal liable for torts which his agent has committed?

(a) Whilst a lady was paying her bill in a butcher’s shop, one of the as­sis­tants removed a leg of mutton from a high hook and threw it across the shop to another assistant. It struck the lady and spoilt her dress. The master had given strict orders that joints were never to be thrown. Can the lady sue (1) the assistant, (2) his master?

(b) A boy steals a ride behind Z’s carriage; and Z’s coachman, on finding out this, whips at him. To avoid the lash, the boy jumps off; and, as the car­riage was going rapidly, he breaks his arm. (1) He and (2) his father sue (a) the coachman, (b) Z. Con­sider these four actions.

From “Elementary Anglo-Saxon”:

6. Turn into Old English:

  1. Sussex, Canterbury, London, men of Wight, York.
  2. A certain woman came to Christ, and prayed for her daughter.
  3. How many loaves have ye?
  4. Then answers the god­fa­ther and says: ‘I re­nounce the devil.’