Student accommodation at Cambridge has been a thorny problem ever since 1231 when Henry III had to admonish the town officials for overcharging. As student numbers increased in the middle ages, hostels and inns were built, some of which became in their turn the first colleges of the university.
However, accommodation in the colleges for all three undergraduate years was invariably insufficient, and the university quickly established its authority over the the licensing of lodgings. This was partly to regulate living conditions and prices but primarily to exercise discipline over those students not living within the college walls.
Margot Holbrook's detailed survey includes an account of the notorious Spinning House where the university incarcerated women whom it felt were a danger to the morals of young men. The return of soldiers after both world wars and national service, older in age and sometimes married, created its own problems, as did the acceptance of women undergraduates and the more recent metamorphosis into mixed colleges.
She concludes with extensive reminiscences written by undergraduates who found themselves at the mercy of a wide variety of landladies, usually kind and generous, but occasionally inhospitable and cold-hearted.