Seeley Historical Library

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Seeley Library from the southeast.
Seeley Library
Seeley Library

The Seeley Historical Library is the history library of the University of Cambridge, England. It is housed within the History Faculty building on the Sidgwick Site off West Road, Cambridge. Since October 2003, incoming books have been classified according to the Library of Congress scheme; before that a unique system was used.[1] The library is open to university students only, six days a week, in term between 9am and 7.15pm (6pm on Saturday).[2]


The history library was established in 1807 by John Symonds, with a collection of a thousand books. After some years of neglect, the library again became a priority in 1884, on the behest of Oscar Browning. It was moved from the gallery of the Philosophical Library to King's College in 1890. In 1897, it was renamed in honour of the historian Sir John Seeley. After a few more moves, the library finally ended up on the Sidgwick site in 1968, in the new History Faculty building designed by James Stirling. Today it accommodates over 300 students and houses more than 95,000 volumes.[3] Although the building was admired by students of architecture it is less well regarded by those who have to work in it. Expensive modifications were necessary to render it usable, and in 1984 the university came close to pulling the whole building down.[4] The remodelling of Stirling's attempt to create an environmentally sustainable structure was announced in 2004. The project was headed by John McAslan, who said that "The main problem with the building is that it leaks, it’s too bright, too hot in summer and too cold in winter.”[5]


  1. ^ "Classification Scheme". Seeley Historical Library. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Opening Hours". Seeley Historical Library. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "History of the Library". Seeley Historical Library. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry on Sir Geoffrey Elton
  5. ^ "McAslan to remodel Stirling library". Building Design. 23 April 2004. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 

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Coordinates: 52°12′06″N 0°06′31″E / 52.2018°N 0.1085°E / 52.2018; 0.1085