about Cambridge in SP's time see:
23 Apr 2022, 6:09 p.m. - San Diego Sarah
The study of Hebrew at the universities was considered very important during the 17th century. It led to a change in attitude towards the Bible and religion in the 18th century, which in turn influenced the French Revolution and the American Constitution, amongst other things.
The introduction to The Jewish Roots of Western Freedom by Fania Oz-Salzberger explains it this way:
"Seventeenth-century political and juridical thinkers mined the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and rabbinic literature for ideas, examples and full-fledged political systems, aiming to apply them to modern Europe.
"This essay examines several political Hebraists of the 17th century, notably Petrus Cuneaus, John Selden, James Harrington and his fellow English republicans, and John Locke.
"The 'Hebrew republic,' the polity idealized by early modern Hebraists, is significant above all as a political and juridical model. The essay discerns three clusters of ideas reaped exclusively, or mainly, from Hebraic sources, and interwoven into modern political thought:
(1)The importance of the rule of law within fixed borders: a concept of international borders underpinning a novel, natural-law-based theory of the state, law, and rights;
(2) the idea of a federal republic, transformed from the tribal Israelite society to Dutch political thinking; and
(3) the moral economy of republican social justice.
"Finally, the essay explains why jurists and political thinkers ceased to read the Bible as a historical and political text in the 18th century, and why the earlier legacy of political Hebraism could become valuable again today, both historically and politically."
You may need to subscribe to Academia, which I find to be a fount of information and well worth it.
23 Apr 2022, 7:29 p.m. - San Diego Sarah
In Pepys' Diary times there were just four universities:
They were going into decline academically because so many theologians were barred from participating by the various anti-Catholic and anti-nonconformist policies.