Because the College was founded as a public institution, Harvard operated under the auspices of the Massachusetts General Court until the mid-19th century. Harvard's earliest administrative records document an evolving administrative structure that provided intersecting roles for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Harvard Corporation, and the Board of Overseers. University records document the relationship between the College and the Massachusetts General Court, which controlled Harvard until 1865.

Harvard records also reflect the developing academic pursuits of faculty and their expanded role in the operation of the institution. Many of the records document the College's financial struggles, as well as its dependence on the colonial government and benefactors in England for financial support.


Finding collections:

Search HOLLIS, the Harvard Library catalog, to find descriptions and links to online content for 17th and 18th century collections in the Harvard University Archives.

  • Use the terms listed below as a subject in a HOLLIS advanced search.
  • Use "Harvard in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries" as a title in a HOLLIS advanced search. 

Subjects include:
College buildings
Harvard University -- Administration
Harvard University -- Regulations


Collection finding aids in HOLLIS for Archival Discovery:


See also Colonial North America at Harvard Library for online access to 17th and 18th century collections held by the Harvard University Archives and other special collections and archives at Harvard.