Robert Spencer received his elementary, high school, and undergraduate education in Montreal, at Kensington School, the High School of Montreal, and McGill University respectively. The files relating to these stages of Professor Spencer’s education contain correspondence, report cards and certificates, term papers, programmes for student dinners and graduation ceremonies, short stories, student newspapers and yearbooks, flyers and other material relating to student organizations, and social activities.
The basic arrangement is by the institutions that Professor Spencer attended, with some files on teacher training during and after his undergraduate years at McGill.
Professor Spencer was on military service in Europe from 1942 to 1946. Once back in Canada, he decided to undertake post-graduate work in history. C.P. Stacey, Director of the Historical Section of the General Staff at Canadian Military Headquarters in London, England, for which Spencer had been working since the beginning of 1946 under the direction of Eric Harrison, could not find funds to assist him. Harrison, who in civil life was a professor of history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, supported Spencer’s applications for scholarships; he was successful in getting the James C. Cumming Fellowship from Trinity College in the University of Toronto. From 1946 to 1950, he also received ‘university training” funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Spencer spent a year (1946-1947) at the U of T, studying under Professors Ralph Flenley and G.P. de T. Glazebrook and reading widely. His MA thesis, “History of the Fifteenth Canadian Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, 1941-1945”, was essentially the study he had written while with the Canadian Forces in the Netherlands in 1945; 1,000 copies of which had been printed by Elsevier in Amsterdam.
Following his graduation from the University of Toronto, Spencer applied to study modern history at Oxford University and was accepted by St. John’s College. He received funding from McGill University (Moyse Travelling Fellowship worth $350), the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (Overseas Scholarship, $800), and part (₤30) of a scholarship from the British Council. In September, 1947 he sailed on the Queen Mary to Southampton. He studied under W. Norton Medlicott and A.J.P. Taylor, receiving his B.Litt in 1950. He was then accepted to do a Doctor of Philosophy.
The files relating to his graduate studies contain correspondence, official documents, essays, programmes, flyers, press clippings, booklets relating to Oxford, St. John’s College, and the Bodleian Library, greeting cards and other souvenirs of his time at Oxford.