Education, education, education

Posted by Tory Historian Tuesday, February 10, 2009 , ,

Today's anniversary is particularly intriguing. On February 10, 1354 students at Oxford University fought a pitched battle with the townspeople of that fair city. Town and gown, you see, which according to the official account necessitated the creation of some primitive halls of residence that eventually became the first three colleges: University, Merton (the first college with a quad) and Balliol.

Some students fled from Oxford and founded a new university on the river Cam, where the pattern was similar - riots and running battles with townsmen, need for royal protection and for some rules being imposed.

Here is a well-written and entertaining, not to say ferocious account of the St Scholastica Day battle by Mark Edelman Boren, which also gives the date as 1354. This seems to be disputed by other sources, who prefer 1355. Students, eh? Don't know which year they are in.

Wikipedia explains that the townsfolk won the battle if for no other reason than the fact that they killed more students than lost their own people. However, it would appear that the Chancellor got to the King first and the University was declared the winner.

The dispute was eventually settled in favour of the university when a special charter was created. Annually thereafter, on February 10, the town mayor and councillors had to march bareheaded through the streets and pay to the university a fine of one penny for every scholar killed, a total of 5 s 3 d. The penance ended 470 years later, in 1825 when the mayor of the time refused to take part.
On wonders why previous mayors had not thought of such a simple solution.

Tory Historian feels that Susanna Gregory's mediaeval detective novel that centres on the St Scholastica Day riot will have to be read.


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