It's not the building that matters...
King George I established the Regius Professorship of Modern History in 1724. At that time the only history studied in the University dealt with ancient Greece and Rome, so the holder did little to earn his £400 a year. When the examination (Tripos) system was established in the nineteenth century, History was for many years a branch of Moral Sciences. A fully autonomous Historical Tripos dates from 1875. Since then Cambridge has boasted a series of renowned historians such as Lord Acton, G.M. Trevelyan, Herbert Butterfield, Geoffrey Elton and J.H. Plumb.
The Faculty of History is one of the largest history departments in the world. The Faculty has consistently obtained the highest ratings in official evaluations for teaching and research. Its work spans three millennia, straddles the globe and exemplifies the rich variety of sub-disciplines that constitutes history today.
.. it's the people
Over one hundred people pursue teaching and research within the History Faculty and Colleges of the University, as University Teaching Officers (UTOs), College Teaching Officers (CTOs), Junior Research Fellows (JRFs), or Post-Doctoral Fellows. In addition, we have close links and share teaching with colleagues in other Faculties and Departments, for example Classics, Politics and International Studies (POLIS), Divinity, History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), and Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC). Historians based at the Fitzwilliam Museum and University Library also regularly contribute to our teaching. However, the majority of lectures, supervisions and classes are given by UTOs and CTOs in the Faculty (around 50 and 30 respectively).
Cambridge History can be assessed in many ways. By the output of scholarship, for instance. In the last six years, its staff have authored or edited more than 120 books as well as publishing several hundred articles and essays. Or one might note the number of students. Each year a new intake of two hundred undergraduates is admitted. The Faculty also has some 450 graduate students studying for Masters degrees and the PhD. For others, what marks out Cambridge History is the celebrated (or notorious) modernist Faculty building, designed by James Stirling.
Yet Cambridge history is hard to pin down. In a collegiate university much of the dynamism comes from research, teaching and conversation conducted within the individual Colleges, many of them places of great antiquity. History at Cambridge also means the books, manuscripts and microfilms of the University Library - uniquely a copyright library where readers can browse and borrow. In the vacations, scholars and students disappear all over the world to do research and give talks, from Berlin to Boston, from Calcutta to Cape Town. Lectures and seminars here in Cambridge host an array of distinguished speakers from equally disparate places.