The title of an 1848 book is The Organization of Industry, Explained in a Course of Lectures Delivered in the University of Cambridge in Easter Term 1844.

The cover page of this 1864 book states that William Edward Hearn is "Professor of History and Political Economy in the University of Melbourne".

But according to the answer here, it should be at the university. Was this just some archaic 19th century thing and we now always use "at the university" rather than "in the university" in these contexts? Or was there something special about the above contexts?

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    These were written in 1848 and 1864. Look at this Google Ngram. Usage has changed in the last 150 years. – Peter Shor Dec 20 '17 at 3:21
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    Oh my goodness @Peter Shor thanks for bringing to my attention the Google Ngram! What an amazing tool – MotherBrain Sep 17 '18 at 2:14

The universities of Cambridge and Oxford are rather peculiar in the British education system, in that they are associations of independent colleges, rather than unified bodies. This may be why the preposition in was used, rather than at. However, writing styles change over the years. Also, it may just have been the author's preference, rather than a matter of convention. You are right, though: today, at would be used for any university, including Oxford and Cambridge.

Note, however, that we still (sometimes) use the term "going up to Cambridge/Oxford, and being "sent down" if you are expelled for bad behaviour. The only explanation for this that I am familiar with is that you travelled to Oxford/Cambridge from London on an "up train", and returned to London on a "down train" (both common terms in the past, but out of use today).

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    But it's not just Oxbridge. I gave the example of Melbourne. I can easily find many more examples if you want. – Kenny LJ Dec 20 '17 at 3:38
  • @KennyLJ Oh, well! That blows my theory out of the water. I hadn't noticed your reference to Melbourne. Let's see if anyone can dispatch my explanation of up/down. – Mick Dec 20 '17 at 3:41
  • The comment by @PeterShor coincides with my experience of the language. Preposition usage changes over time. People in the USA used to be born at a city (at New York, for example). Nowadays it's in a city. If you read something 150+ years old don't expect to find the same usage as today. – 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj Dec 21 '17 at 0:02
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    @Clare Oddly enough, I was listening to a lecture last night, and the speaker referred to another academic as "Dr (name) out of (university)". Now all I have to do is remember what lecture it was. – Mick Dec 21 '17 at 0:12
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    @tautophile The place where you stop going down and begin going up is, at least metaphorically, the low point on your route. Calling such a place High Wycombe is surely a nefarious attempt to drive me insane. – Andreas Blass Aug 18 '18 at 2:19

"lectures delivered in the University of Cambridge": Here we are talking about the location. Where were the lectures delivered? Answer: In the University of Cambridge. Here we know that the venue for these lectures was the University of Cambridge.

"lectures delivered at the University of Cambridge": Here the focus is on the institution. These lectures might or might not have been delivered in the university campus. But they were facilitated by the institution (University of Cambridge) as maybe a part of their curriculum or special lecture series or some other similar program.


My take here is that it was a nonpublic forum. In other words the people that delivered the lecture were of the institution, whether they be faculty or students, for other people of the institution.

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