Charles Astor Bristed (1820-1874) was the favourite grandson of John Jacob Astor II, of Waldorf-Astoria fame. After gaining a degree at Yale, Bristed entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1840, graduating in 1845. Five Years in an English University, first published in 1852 by Putnam in New York, is a richly detailed account of student life in the Cambridge of the 1840s. The central rationale for the book, which is as appealing today as it was then, is that this is pre-eminently a book about an American student at an English university. The book belongs to a fascinating 19th century trans-Atlantic publishing genre: travel accounts designed to describe British culture to Americans and vice-versa.
In this new edition, some substantial additions have been made: the Foreword and Introduction both help to contextualise the work, and point to its significance as an important historical source and as a fascinating memoir of life in Victorian Cambridge; annotation helps to identify the individuals who appear in Bristed’s text; and an index allows full use to be made of the text for the first time.