Jacques Maritain Center : Greatest of Centuries


For most people the surprise of finding that the subjects with which the students were occupied at the universities of the Thirteenth Century were very much the same as those which claim the attention of modern students, will probably be somewhat mitigated by the thought that after all there were only few in attendance at the universities, and as a consequence only a small proportion of the population shared in that illumination, which has become so universal in the spread of opportunities for the higher education in these later times. While such an impression is cherished by many even of those who think that they know the history of education, and unfortunately are considered by others to be authorities on the subject, it is the falsest possible idea that could be conceived of this medieval time with which we are concerned. We may say at once that it is matter of comparatively easy collation of statistics to show that in proportion to the population of the various countries there were actually more students taking advantage of the opportunity to acquire university education in the Thirteent Century, than there were at any time in the Nineteenth Century, or even in the midst of this era of widespread educational opportunities in the Twentieth Century.

Most people know the traditions which declare that there were between twenty and thirty thousand students at the University of Paris toward the end of the Thirteenth Century. At the same time there were said to have been between fifteen and twenty thousand students at the University of Bologna. Correspondingly large numbers have been reported for the University of Oxford and many thousands were supposed to be attendance at the University of Cambridge. It is usually considered, however, that these figures are gross exaggerations. It is easy to assert this but rather difficult to prove. As matter of fact the nearer one comes to the actual times in the history of education, the more definitely do writers speak of these large numbers of students in attendance. For instance Gascoigne, who says that there were thirty thousand students at the University of Oxford at the end of the Thirteenth Century, lived himself within a hundred years of the events of which he talks, and he even goes so far as to declare that he saw the rolls of the University containing this many names. There is no doubt at all about his evidence in the matter and there is no mistake possible with regard to his figures. They were written out in Latin, not expressed in Arabic or Roman numerals, the copying of which might so easily give opportunities for error to creep in.

In spite of such evidence it is generally conceded that to accept these large numbers would be almost surely a mistake. There were without any doubt many thousands of students at the Thirteenth Century universities. There were certainly more students at the University of Paris in the last quarter of the Thirteenth Century than there were at any time during the Nineteenth Century. This of itself is enough to startle modern complacency out of most of its ridiculous self-sufficiency. There can be scarcely a doubt that the University of Bologna at the time of its largest attendance had more students than any university of modern times, proud as we may be (and deservedly) of our immense institutions of learning. With regard to the English universities the presence of very large numbers is much more doubtful. Making every allowance, however, there can be no hesitation in saying that Oxford had during the last quarter of the Thirteenth Century a larger number than ever afterwards within her walls and that Cambridge, though never so numerous as her rival, had a like good fortune. Professor Laurie of Edinburgh, a very conservative authority and one not likely to concede too much to the Middle Ages in anything, would allow, as we shall see, some ten thousand students to Oxford. Others have claimed more than half that number for Cambridge as the lowest possible estimate. Even if it be conceded, as has sometimes been urged, that all those in service in the universities were also counted as students, these numbers would not be reduced very materially and it must not be forgotten that, in those days of enthusiastic striving after education, young men were perfectly willing to take up even the onerous duties of personal services to others, in order to have the opportunity to be closely in touch with a great educational institution and to receive even a moderate amount of benefit from its educational system. In our own time there are many students who are working their way through the universities, and in Thirteenth Century when the spirit of independence was much less developed, and when any stigma that attached to personal service was much less felt than it is at the present time, there were many more examples of this earnest striving for intellectual development.

If we discuss the situation in English-speaking countries as regards the comparative attendance at the universities in the Thirteenth Century and in our own time, we shall be able to get a reasonably good idea of what must be thought in this matter. The authorities are neither difficult of consultation nor distant, and comparatively much more is known about the population of England at this time than about most of the continental countries. England was under a single ruler, while the geographical divisions that we now know by the name of France, Spain, Italy and Germany were the seats of several rulers at least and sometimes of many, a circumstance which does not favor our obtaining an adequate idea of the populations.

That but two universities provided all the opportunities for whatever higher education there was in England at this time would of itself seem to stamp the era as backward in educational matters. A little consideration of the comparative number of students with reference to the population of the country who were thus given the opportunity for higher education -- and took advantage of it -- at that time and the present, will show the unreasonableness of such an opinion. It is not so easy as might be imagined to determine just what was the population even of England in the Thirteenth Century. During Elizabeth's reign there were, according to the census, estimate made about the time of the great Armada, together some four millions of people. Froude accepts this estimate as representing very well the actual number of the population. Certainly there were not more than five millions at the end of the Sixteenth Century. Lingard, who for this purpose must be considered as a thoroughly conservative authority, estimates that there were not much more than two millions of people in England at the end of the Twelfth Century. This is probably not an underestimate. At the end of the Thirteenth Century there were not many more than two millions and a half of people in the country. At the very outside there were, let us say, three millions. Out of this meagre population, ten thousand students were, on the most conservative estimate, taking advantage of the opportunities for the higher education that were provided for them at the universities.

At the present moment, though we pride ourselves on the numbers in attendance at our universities, and though the world's population is so much more numerous and the means of transportation so much more easy, we have very few universities as large as these of the Thirteenth Century. No American university at the present moment has as large a number of students as had Oxford at the end of the Thirteenth Century, and of course none of them compares at all with Paris or Bologna in this respect. Even the European universities, as we have suggested, fall behind their former glory from this standpoint. In the attendance to the number of population the comparison is even more startling for those who have not thought at all of the Middle Ages as a time of wonderful educational facilities and opportunities. In the greater City of New York as we begin the Twentieth Century there are perhaps fifteen thousand students in attendance at educational institutions which have university privileges. I may say that this is a very liberal allowance. At universities in the ordinary sense of the word there are not more than ten thousand students and the remainder is added in order surely to include all those who may be considered as doing undergraduate work in colleges and schools of various kinds. Of these fifteen thousand at least one-fourth come from outside of the greater city, and there are Some who think that even one-third would not be too large a number to calculate as not being drawn directly from our own Population. Connecticut and New Jersey furnish large numbers of students and then, besides, the post-graduate schools of the universities have very large numbers in attendance even irom distant states and foreign countries.

It will be within the bounds of truth, then, to say, that there are between ten and twelve thousand students, out of our population of more than four millions in Greater New York taking advantage of the opportunities for the higher education provided by our universities and colleges. At the end of the Thirteenth Century in England there were at least ten thousand students out of a population of not more and very probably than three millions, who were glad to avail themselves of similar opportunities. This seems to be perfectly fair comparison and we have tried to he as conservative as possible in every way in order to bring out the truth in the matter.

It can scarcely fail to be a matter of supreme surprise to find that a century so distant as the Thirteenth, should thus equal our own vaunted Twentieth Century in the matter of opportunities for the higher education afforded and taken advantage of. It has always been presumed that the Middle Ages, while a little better than the Dark Ages, were typical periods in which there was little, if any desire for higher education and even fewer opportunities. It was thought that there was constant repression of the desire for knowledge which springs so eternally in the human heart and that the Church, or at least the ecclesiastical authorities of the time, set themselves firmly against widespread education, because it would set people to thinking for themselves. As a matter of fact, however, every Cathedral and every monastery became a center of educational influence, and even the poorest, who showed special signs of talent, obtained the opportunity to secure knowledge to the degree that they wished. It is beyond doubt or cavil, that at no time in the world's history have so many opportunities for higher education been open to all classes as during the Thirteenth Century.

In order to show how thoroughly conservative are the numbers in attendance at the universities that I have taken, I shall quote two good recent authorities, one of them Profess Laurie, the Professor of the Institutes and History of Education in the University of Edinburgh, and the other Thomas Davidson, a well-known American authority on educational subjects. Each of their works from which I shall quote has been published or revised within the last few years. Professor Laurie in "The Rise and Early Constitution of the University with a Survey of the Medieval Education," which formed one of the International Educational Series, edited by Commissioner Harris and published by Appleton, said:

"When one hears of the large number of students who attended the earliest universities -- ten thousand and even twenty thousand at Bologna, an equal, and at one time a greater, number at Paris, and thirty thousand at Oxford -- one cannot help thinking that the numbers have been exaggerated. There is certainly evidence that the Oxford attendance was never so great as has been alleged (see Anstey's 'Mon Acad.'); but when we consider that attendants, servitors, college cooks, etc., were regarded as members of the university community, and that the universities provided for a time the sole recognized training grounds for those wishing to enter the ecclesiastical or legal or teaching professions, I see no reason to doubt the substantial accuracy of the tradition as to attendance -- especially when we remember that at Paris and Oxford a large number were mere boys of from twelve to fifteen years of age."

As to the inclusion of servitors, we have already said that many, probably, indeed, most of them, were actual students working their way through the university in these enthusiastic days. Professor Laurie's authority for the assertion that a large number of the students at Paris and Oxford were mere boys, is a regulation known to have existed at one of these universities requiring that students should not be less than twelve years of age. Anyone who has studied medieval university life, however, will have been impressed with the idea, that the students were on the average older at the medieval universities rather than younger than they are at the present time. The rough hazing methods employed, almost equal to those of our own day! would seem to indicate this. Besides, as Professor Laurie confesses in the next paragraph, many of the students were actually much older than at present. Our university courses are arranged for young men between 17 and 22, but that is, to fall back on Herbert Spencer, presumably because the period of infancy is lengthening with the evolution of the race. There are many who consider that at the present time students are too long delayed in the opportunity to get at the professional studies, and that it is partly the consequence of this that the practical branches are so much more taken up under the elective system. As we said in the chapter on Universities and Preparatory Schools, in Italy and in other southern countries, it is not a surprising thing to have a young man graduate at the age of 16 or 17 with his degree of A. B., after a thoroughly creditable scholastic career. This means that he began his university work proper under 13 years of age; so that we must judge the medieval universities to some extent at least with this thought in mind.

Mr. Thomas Davidson in his "History of Education,"{1} in chapter on The Medieval University has a paragraph in which he discusses the attendance, especially during the Thirteenth Century, and admits that the numbers, while perhaps not as large as have been reported, were very large in comparison to modern institutions of the same kind, and frankly concedes that education rose during these centuries which are often supposed to have been so unfavorable to educational development, to a amazing height scarcely ever surpassed. He says:

"The number of students reported as having attended some of the universities in those early days almost passes belief; e. g. Oxford is said to have had thirty thousand about the year 1300, and half that number even as early as 1224. The numbers attending the University of Paris were still greater. These numbers become less surprising when we remember with what poor accommodations -- a bare room and an armful of straw -- the students of those days were content, and what numbers them even a single teacher like Abelard could, long before, draw into lonely retreats. That in the Twelfth and following centuries there was no lack of enthusiasm for study, notwithstanding the troubled condition of the times, is very clear. The instruction given at the universities, moreover, reacted upon the lower schools, raising their standard and supplying them with competent teachers. Thus, in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth centuries, education rose in many European states to a height which it had not attained since the days of Seneca and Quintilian."

A very serious objection that would seem to have so much weight as to preclude all possibility of accepting as true the large numbers mentioned, is the fact that it is very hard to understand how such an immense number of students could have been supported in any town of the Middle Ages. This objection has carried so much weight to some minds as to make them give up the thought of large numbers at the medieval universities. Professor Laurie has answered it very effectively, however, and in his plausible explanation gives a number of points which emphasize the intense ardor of these students of the Middle Ages in their search for knowledge, and shows how ready they were to bear serious trials and inconveniences, not to say absolute sufferings and hardships, in order that they might have opportunities for the higher education. The objection then redounds rather to the glory of the medieval universities than lessens their prestige, either as regards numbers or the enthusiasm of their students.

"The chief objection to accepting the tradition (of large numbers at the universities) lies in the difficulty of seeing how in those days, so large a number of the young men of Europe could afford the expense of residence away from their homes. This difficulty, however, is partly removed when we know that many of the students were well to do, that a considerable number were matured men, already monks and canons, and that the endowments of Cathedral schools also were frequently used to enable promising scholars to attend foreign universities. Monasteries also regularly sent boys of thirteen and fourteen to university seats. A papal instruction of 1335 required every Benedictine and Augustinian community to send boys to the universities in the proportion of one in twenty of their residents. Then, state authorities ordered free passages for all who were wending their way through the country to and from the seat of learning. In the houses of country priests -- not to speak of the monastery hospitals -- traveling scholars were always accommodated gratuitously, and even local subscriptions were frequently made to help them on their way. Poor traveling scholars were, in fact, a medieval institution, and it was considered no disgrace for a student to beg and receive alms for his support."

After reading these authoritative opinions, it would be rather difficult to understand the false impressions which have obtained so commonly for the last three centuries with regard education in the Middle Ages, if we did not realize that history. especially for English-speaking people, has for several been written from a very narrow standpoint and with a very definite purpose. About a century ago the Comte de Maistre said in his Soirées de St. Petersburg, that history for the hundred years before his time "had been a conspiracy against the truth." Curiously enough the editors of the Cambridge Modern History in their first volume on the Renaissance, re-echoed this sentiment of the French historical writer and philosopher. They even use the very words "history has been conspiracy against the truth" and proclaim that if we are to get at truth in this generation, we must go behind all the classical historians, and look up contemporary documents evidence and authorities once more for ourselves. It is the maintenance of a tradition that nothing good could possibly have come out of the Nazareth of the times before the Reformation, that has led to this serious misapprehension of the true position of those extremely important centuries in modern education -- the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth.

To those who know even a little of what was accomplished in these centuries, it is supremely amusing to read the childish treatment accorded them and the trivial remarks that even accredited historians of education make with regard to them. Occasionally, however, the feeling of the reader who knows something of the subject is not one of amusement, but far from it. There are times when one cannot help but feel that it is not ignorance, but a deliberate purpose to minimize the importance of these times in culture and education, that is at the basis of some of the utterly mistaken remarks that are made. We shall take occasion only to give one example of this, but that will afford ample evidence of the intolerant spirit that characterizes the work of some even of the supposedly most enlightened historians of education. The quotation will be from Compayré's "History of Pedagogy" which is, I understand, in use in nearly every Normal School in this country and is among the books required in many Normal School examinations.

M. Compayré in an infamous paragraph which bears the title "The Intellectual Feebleness of the Middle Age," furnishes an excellent example of how utterly misunderstood, if not deliberately misrepresented, has been the whole spirit and content and the real progressiveness of education in this wonderful period. After some belittling expressions as to the influence of Christianity on education -- expressions utterly unjustified by the facts -- he has this to say with regard to the Thirteenth Century, which is all the more surprising because it is the only place where he calls any attention to it. He says:

"In 1291, of all the monks in the convent of St. Gall, there was not one who could read and write. It was so difficult to find notaries public, that acts had to be passed verbally. The barons took pride in their ignorance. Even after the efforts of the Twelfth Century, instruction remained a luxury for the common people; it was the privilege of the ecclesiastics and even they did not carry it very far. The Benedictines confess that the mathematics were studied only for the purpose of calculating the date of Easter."

This whole paragraph of M. Compayré (the rest must be read to be appreciated), whose history of education was considered to be of such value that it was deemed worthy of translation by the President of a State Normal School and that it has been adopted as a work of reference, in some cases of required study, in many of the Normal Schools throughout the country, is a most wonderful concoction of ingredients, all of which are meant to dissolve every possible idea that people might have of the existence of any tincture of education during the Middle Ages. There is only one fact which deeply concerns us because it refers to the Thirteenth Century. M. Compayré says that in 1291 of all the monks of the Convent of Saint Gall there was not one who could read and write. This single fact is meant to sum up the education of the century for the reader. Especially it is meant to show the student of pedagogy how deeply sunk in ignorance were the monks and all the ecclesiastics of this period. Before attempting to say anything further it may be as well to call attention to the fact that in the original French edition the writer did not say that there was not a single monk. He said, "There was but one monk, who could read and write." Possibly it seemed to the translator to make the story more complete to leave out this one poor monk and perhaps one monk more or less, especially a medieval monk, may not count for very much to modern students of education. There are those of us, however, who consider it too bad to obliterate even a single monk in this crude way and we ask that he shall be put back. There was one who could read and write and carry on the affairs of the monastery. Let us have him at least, by all means.

In the year 1291 when M. Compayré says that there was but a single monk at the monastery of St. Gall who could read and write, he, a professor himself at a French Normal School, must have known very well that there were over twenty thousand students at the University of Paris, almost as many at the University of Bologna, and over five thousand, some authorities say many more than this (Professor Laurie would admit more than ten thousand), at the University of Oxford, though Christian Europe at this time did not have a population of more than 15,000,000 people. He must have known, too, or be hopelessly ignorant in educational matters, that many of the students at these universities belonged to the Franciscans and Dominicans, and that indeed many of the greatest teachers the universities were members of these monastic orders. Of this he says nothing, however. All that he says is "Education was the privilege of the ecclesiastics and they did not carry it very far." This is one way of writing a history of education. It is a very effective way of poisoning the wells of information and securing the persistence of the tradition that there was no education until after the beginning of the Sixteenth Century.

Meantime one can scarcely help but admire the ingenuity of deliberate purpose that uses the condition of the monastery of St. Gall to confirm his statement. St. Gall had been founded by Irish monks probably about the beginning of the Eigtth Century. It had been for at least three centuries a center of education, civilization and culture, as well as of religion, for the barbarians who had settled in the Swiss country after the transmigration of nations. The Irish had originally obtained their culture from Christian Missionaries, and now as Christian Missionaries they brought it back to Europe and accomplished their work with wonderful effectiveness. St. Gall was for centuries a lasting monument to their efforts. After the Tenth Century, however, the monastery began to degenerate. It was almost directly in the path of armies which so frequently went down to Italy because of the German interest in the Italian peninsula and the claims of the German emperor. After a time according to tradition, the emperor insisted that certain of the veterans of his army should be received and cared for in their old age at St. Gall. Gradually this feature of the institution became more and more prominent until in the Thirteenth Century it had become little more than a home for old soldiers. In order to live on the benefices of the monastery these men had to submit to ecclesiastical regulations and wear the habit. They were, it is true, a sort of monk, that is, they were willing, for the sake of the peace and ease which it brought, to accept the living thus provided for them and obey to some degree at least the rules of the monastery. It is not surprising that among these there should have been only one who could read and write. The soldiers of the time despised the men of letters and prided themselves on not being able to write. That a historian of pedagogy, however, should take this one fact in order to give students an idea of the depth of ignorance of the Middle Ages, is an exhibition of some qualities in our modern educated men, that one does not like to think of as compatible with the capacity to read and write. It would indeed be better not to be able to read and write than thus to read and write one's own prejudices into history, and above all the history of education.

Compayré's discussion of the "Causes of the Ignorance" of the Middle Ages in the next paragraph, is one of the most curious bits of special pleading by a man who holds a brief for one side of the question, that I think has ever been seen in what was to be considered serious history. He first makes it clear how much opposed the Christian Church was to education, then he admits that she did some things which cannot be denied, but minimizes their significance. Then he concludes that it was not the fault of the Church, but in this there is a precious bit of damning by faint praise. It would be impossible for any ordinary person who had only Compayré for authority to feel anything after reading the paragraph, but that Christianity was a serious detriment and surely not a help to the cause of progress in education. I quote part of the paragraph:

"What were the permanent causes of that situation which lasted for ten centuries? The Catholic Church has sometimes been held responsible for this. Doubtless the Christian doctors did not always profess a very warm sympathy for intellectual culture. Saint Augustine has said: It is the ignorant who gain possession of heaven (indocti coelum rapiunt.) Saint Gregory the Great, a Pope of the Sixth Century, declared that he would blush to have the holy word conform to the rules of grammar. Too many Christians, in a word, confounded ignorance with holiness. Doubtless, towards the Seventh Century, the darkness still hung thick over the Christian Church. Barbarians invaded the Episcopate, and carried with them their rude manners. Doubtless, also, during the feudal period the priest often became a soldier, and remained ignorant. It would, however, be unjust to bring a constructive charge against the Church of the Middle Age, and to represent it as systematically hostile to instruction. Directly to the contrary, it is the clergy who, in the midst of the general barbarism, preserved some vestiges of the ancient culture. The only schools of that period are the Episcopal and claustral schools, the first annexed to the Bishops' palaces, the second to the monasteries. The religious orders voluntarily associated manual labor with mental labor. As far back as 530, St. Benedict founded the Convent of Monte Cassino, and drew up statutes which made reading and intellectual labor a part of the daily life of the monks." When this damning by faint praise is taken in connection with the paragraph in which only a single monk at the Monastery of St. Gall is declared to have been able to read and write, the utterly false impression that is sure to result, can be readily understood even by those who are not sympathetic students of the Middle Ages. This is how our histories of education have been written as a rule, and as a consequence the most precious period in modern education, its great origin, has been ignored even by professional scholars, to the great detriment not only of historical knowledge but also of any proper appreciation of the evolution of education.

It will be said by those who do not appreciate the conditions that existed in the Middle Ages, that these numbers at the universities seeking the higher education, mean very little for the culture of the people, since practically all of those in attendance at the universities belonged to the clerical order. There is no doubt that most students were clerics in the Thirteenth Century. This did not mean, however, that they had taken major orders or had in any way bound themselves irrevocably to continue in the clerical vocation. The most surprising thing about the spread of culture and the desire for the higher education during the Thirteenth Century, is that they developed in spite of the fact that the rulers of the time were all during the century, embroiled in war either with their neighbors or with the nobility. Anyone who wanted to live a quiet, intellectual life turned naturally to the clerical state, which enabled him to escape military duties and gave him opportunities for study, as well as protection from many exactions that might otherwise be levied upon him. The church not only encouraged education, but supplied the peaceful asylums in which it might be cultivated to the heart's content of the student.

While this clerical state was a necessity during the whole time of residence at the university, it was not necessarily maintained afterward. Many of the clerics did not even have minor orders -- orders which it is well understood carry with them no absolute obligation of continuing in the clerical state. Sextons and their assistants were clerics. When the word canon originally came into use it meant nothing more than that the man was entered on the rolls of a church and received some form of wages therefrom. Students at the universities were by ecclesiastical courtesy then, clerics (from which comes the word clerk, one who can read and write) though not in orders, and it was because of this that the university was able to maintain the rights of students. It was well understood that after graduation men might take up the secular life and indeed most of them did. In succeeding chapters we shall see examples of this and discuss the question further. Professors at the universities had to maintain their clerical condition so that even professors of law and of medicine were not allowed to marry. This law continued long beyond the Thirteenth Century, however. Professors of medicine were the first to be freed from the obligation of celibacy, but not until the middle of the Fifteenth Century at Paris, while other professors were bound thus for a full century later. Certain minor teaching positions at Oxford are still under this law, which evidently has seemed to have some advantage or it would not have been maintained.

It might perhaps be thought that only the wealthier class, the sons of the nobility and of the wealthy merchants of the cities had opportunities at the universities. As a matter of fact, however, the vast majority of the students was drawn from the great middle class. The nobility were nearly always too occupied with their pleasures and their martial duties to have time for the higher education. The tradition that a nobleman should be an educated gentleman had not yet come in. Indeed many of the nobility during the Thirteenth Century rather prided themselves on the fact that they not only had no higher education, but that they did not know even how to read and write, When we reflect, then, on the large numbers who went to the universities, it adds to our surprise to realize that they were drawn from the burgher class. It is evident that many of the sons even of the poor were afforded opportunities in different ways at the universities of the time.

Tradition shows that from the earliest time there were foundations on which poor students could live, and arrangements were made by which, aside from these, they might make their living while continuing their studies. Working one's way through the university was more common in the Thirteenth Century than it is at the present day, though we are proud of the large numbers who now succeed in the double task of supporting and educating themselves, with excellent success in both enterprises. There are many stories of poor students who found themselves about to be obliged to give up their studies, encountering patrons of various kinds who enabled them to go on with their education.

There is a very pretty set of legends with regard to St. Edmund of Canterbury in this matter. He bears this name because he was afterward the sainted primate of England. For many years he taught at the University of Oxford. The story is told of a clerical friend sending him up a student to Oxford and asking that his bills be sent to him. St. Edmund's answer was that he would not be robbed of an opportunity of doing good like this, and he took upon himself the burden of caring for the student. At the time there were many others dependent on his bounty and his reputation was such that he was enabled to help a great many through the benefactions of friends, who found no higher pleasure in life than being able to come generously to Edmund's assistance in his charities.

Those who know the difficulty of managing very large bodies of students will wonder inevitably, how the medieval universities, with their less formal and less complete organizations, succeeded in maintaining discipline for all these thousands of students. Most people will remember at once all the stories of roughness, of horse play, of drinking and gaming or worse that they have heard of the medieval students and will be apt to conclude that they are not to be wondered at after all, since it must have been practically impossible for the faculties of universities to keep order among such vast numbers. As a matter of fact, however, the story of the origin and maintenance of discipline in these universities is one of the most interesting features of university life. The process of discipline became in itself a very precious part of education, as it should be of course in any well regulated institution of learning. The very fact, moreover, that in spite of these large numbers and other factors that we shall call attention to in a moment, comparatively so few disgraceful stories of university life have come down to us, and the other and still more important fact that the universities could be kept so constantly at the attainment of their great purpose for such numbers, is itself a magnificent tribute to those who succeeded in doing it, and to the system which was gradually evolved, not by the faculty alone but by teachers and students for university government. With regard to the discipline of the medieval universities not much is known and considerable of what has been written on this obscure subject wears an unfavorable tinge, because it is unfortunately true that "the good men do is oft interred with their bones" while the evil has an immortality all its own. The student escapades of the universities, the quarrels between and gown and town, the stories of the evils apparently inevitable, where many young men are congregated -- the hazing, the rough horse play, the carousing, the immoralities -- have all come down us, while it is easy to miss the supreme significance of the enthusiasm for learning that in these difficult times gathered many students together from distant parts of the world, when traveling was so difficult and dangerous, and kept them at the universities for long years in spite of the hardships and inconveniences of the life. With regard to our modern universities the same thing is true, and the outside world knows much more of the escapades of the few, the little scandals of college life, that scarcely make a ripple but are so easily exaggerated, and so frequently repeated and lose nothing by repetition, the waste of time in athletics, in gambling, in social things, than of earnest work and the successful intellectual progress and interests of the many. This should be quite enough to make the modern university man very slow to accept the supposed pictures of medieval student life, which are founded mainly on the worse side of it. Goodness is proverbially uninteresting, a happy people has no history and the ordinary life of the university student needs a patient sympathetic chronicler; and such the medieval universities have not found as yet. But they do need many allowances, if it will only be remembered under what discouragements they labored and how much they accomplished.

The reputation of the medieval universities has suffered from this very human tendency to be interested in what is evil and to neglect the good. Even as it is, however, a good deal with regard to the discipline of the universities in the early times is known and does not lose in interest from the fact, that the main factor in it was a committee of the students themselves working in conjunction with the faculty, and thus anticipating what is most modern in the development of the discipline regime of our up-to-date universities. At first apparently, in the schools from which the universities originated there was no thought of the necessity for discipline. The desire for education was considered to be sufficient to keep men occupied in such a way that further discipline would not be necessary. It can readily be understood that the crowds that flocked to hear Abelard in Paris, and who were sufficiently interested to follow him out to the Desert of the Paraclete when he was no longer allowed to continue his lectures in connection with the school at Paris, would have quite enough of ruling from the internal forum of their supreme interest, not to need any discipline in the external forum.

In the course ot time, however, with the coming of even greater numbers to the University of Paris, and especially when the attendance ran up into many thousands, some form of school discipline became an absolute necessity. This developed of itself and in a very practical way. The masters seem to have had very little to do with it at the beginning since they occupied themselves entirely with their teaching and preparation for lectures. What was to become later one of the principal instruments of discipline was at first scarcely more than a social organization among the students. Those who came from different countries were naturally attracted to one another, and were more ready to help each other. When students first came they were welcomed by their compatriots who took care to keep them from being imposed upon, enabled them to secure suitable quarters and introduced them to university customs generally, so that they might be able to take advantage, as soon as possible, of the educational opportunities.

The friendships thus fostered gradually grew into formal organizations, the so-called "nations." These began to take form just before the beginning of the Thirteenth Century. They made it their duty to find lodgings for their student compatriots, and evidently also to supply food on some cooperative plan for at least the poorer students. Whenever students of a particular nationality were injured in any way, their "nation" as a formal organization took up their cause and maintained their rights, even to the extent of an appeal to formal process of law before the magistrates, if necessary. The nations were organized before the faculties in the universities were formally recognized as independent divisions of the institution, and they acted as intermediaries between the university head and the students, making themselves responsible for discipline to no slight degree. At the beginning of the Thirteenth Century in Paris all the students belonged to one or other of four nations, the Picard, the Norman, the French, which embraced Italian, Spaniards, Greeks and Orientals, and the English which embraced the English, Irish, Germans, Poles (heterogeneous collection we would consider it in these modern days) and in a nation all other students from the North of Europe.

Professor Laurie, of the University of Edinburgh, in his Rise and Early Constitution of Universities in the International Educational Series{2} says:

"The subdivisions of the nations were determined by the localities from which the students and masters came. Each subdivision elected its own dean, and kept its own matriculation-book and money-chest. The whole "nation" was represented, it is true, by the elected procurators; but the deans of the subdivisions were regarded as important officials, and were frequently, if not always, assessors of the procurators. The procurators, four in number, were elected, not by the students as in Bologna and Padua, but by the students and masters. Each nation with its procurator and deans was an independent body, passing its own statutes and rules, and exercising supervision over the lodging-houses of the students. They had each a seal as distinguished from the university seal, and each procurator stood to his "nation" in the same relation as the Rector did to the whole university. The Rector, again, was elected by the procurators, who sat as his assessors, and together they constituted the governing body; but this for purposes of discipline, protection and defense of privileges chiefly, the consortium magistrorum regulating the schools. But so independent were the nations that the question whether each had power to make statutes that overrode those of the universitas, was still a question so late as the beginning of the Seventeenth Century."

It is typical of the times that the governing system should thus have grown up of itself and from amongst the students rather than that it should have been organized by the teachers and imposed upon the university. The nations represented the rise of that democratic spirit, which was to make itself felt in the claims for the recognition of rights for all the people in most of the countries during the Thirteenth Century, and undoubtedly the character of the government of the student body at the universities fostered this spirit and is therefore to a noteworthy degree, responsible for the advances in the direction of liberty which are chronicled during this great century. This was a form of unconscious education but none the less significant for that, and eminently practical in its results, At this time in Europe there was no place where the members of the community who flocked in largest numbers to the universities, the sons of the middle classes, could have any opportunities to share in government or learn the precious lessons of such participation, except at the universities. There gradually came an effort on the part of the faculties to lessen many of the rights of the nations of the universities, but the very struggle to maintain these on the part of the student body, was of itself a precious training against the usurpation of privileges that was to be of great service later in the larger arena of national politics, and the effects of which can be noted in every country in Europe, nowhere more than in England, where the development of law and liberty was to give rise to a supreme heritage of democratic jurisprudence for the English speaking peoples of all succeeding generations.

{1} A History of Education, by Thomas Davidson, author of Aristotle and Ancient Educational Ideas. New York: Scribners, 1900.

{2} The Rise and Early Constitution ot Universities, with a survey of Medieval Education, by S. S. Laurie, LL.D., Professor of the Institutes and History of Education in the University of Edinburgh. New York, D. Appleton & Company, 1901.

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