The University of Kentucky was chartered in February of 1865 by the Kentucky Legislature, as the "Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky," a department established, pursuant to the terms of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, for the purpose of college-level training in Agriculture and Engineering, within Kentucky University, a private, sectarian institution organized at the same time. Ensuing denominational and theological controversies, as well as financial difficulties, prompted the Legislature to formally separate the College from the University in 1878, and the former, in 1880, began a century-and-a-quarter of development as an independent institution of higher education on the site of a municipal park and fairgrounds donated by the city of Lexington. In 1908 the A&M College attained University status, and in 1916 it assumed its present name.
The history of the University may be researched by means of the following on-line informational resources:
- Board of Trustees Online Archive, a word-searchable index of the meeting minutes and supporting data of the Board of Trustees from 1862 to 2009.
- Chronology of the University of Kentucky, a chronology of the history of the University from its origins to the present day
- "The University of Kentucky: a Look Back" brief history of UK, by Weston Thompson and Terry Birdwhistell
- Higher Education in Kentucky, the Early Years, an early history of the education in Kentucky from 1780 - 1865, leading up to the establishment of the Agricultural & Mechanical College (UK), by Evelyn Rowe McGill
- University campus plans
- Biographies of the UK Presidents, biographical sketches of the presidents of the institution, from Patterson through Todd, by Rob Parmley, Nancy DeMarcus and Frank Stanger
- The University of Kentucky's History and Development: a Series of Charts Depicting the More Important Data: 1862-1955, booklet compiled by first University Registrar Ezra Gillis
- Frequently Asked Questions about the University Archives, questions asked repeatedly and prominently by patrons about UK history, by Frank Stanger
- Charles T. Wethington, Jr. Alumni/Faculty Oral History Collection, over 600 interviews with UK alumni and faculty and is an invaluable resource for researchers of University of Kentucky history and the history of higher education in the state and nation
- History of the Administration Building, a brief history of UK's "Main Building", by Frank Stanger
- Administration Building Fire, information about the fire and the records recovery process, by Tom Rosko
- History Websites at UK, a listing of University of Kentucky websites containing histories of the institution or of component units, edited by Frank Stanger
- Buildings and Grounds of the University of Kentucky, 1918
- Photo Essay on the History of Education in Kentucky