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The revolution—intellectual, moral, and spiritual—which took place in the European world about the middle of the vast period usually comprised in the term “Middle Ages” was at least as decisive and momentous as either of the two later movements which have somewhat overshadowed its importance in popular estimation—that is to say, the Renaissance and the Reformation. The period which immediately followed the completion of the barbarian inroads and the cessation of the Western Empire was a really dark age—an age of violence, confusion, and general ignorance broken only by the dim light of a few isolated scholars who, after all, did little more than conserve some scanty remnants of ancient secular culture and patristic theology. It is difficult to date the beginnings of improvement. For a moment the little circle of learned men who adorned the Carolingian court seemed to herald an era of enlightenment, but the hopes which it suggested were not destined to immediate realisation. The tenth century, at least till towards its close, was as dark as any that went before it. The year 1000 will fairly represent the turning-point. The eleventh century was an age of improvement; the twelfth century one of rapid progress, in some ways even of the most brilliant intellectual activity which the Middle Ages ever knew. The universities were the product of this earlier twelfth-century Renaissance. And it was the universities which kept alive the permanent results of that movement. There was no doubt a popular literature with which the universities had little to do, but on the whole it was due to the universities, more than anything else, that the later Middle Age was not an age of darkness but of high culture and high civilisation—of a kind.

During the Dark Ages, whatever learning and education survived the barbarian cataclysm had their home almost exclusively in the monasteries and the cathedrals; and during this period the monastic schools were perhaps slightly in advance of the secular. The period has been called the Benedictine age. In the cathedrals themselves some of the best known teachers had been pupils of the monks. A marked feature of the intellectual new birth which took place in the twelfth century was the transference of the intellectual primacy from the monastic schools to those of the secular clergy. In the North of Europe the universities were an outgrowth of the cathedral schools, not of the monasteries. Anselm of Bec was one of the last great monastic teachers; the great Abelard—the introducer of a new era in the scholastic philosophy, the true father of the scholastic theology, out of whose teaching, though not in his lifetime, the University of Paris may be said to have grown—was a secular who lectured in the schools of the cathedral, though accidentally, as it were, he ended his days as a monk. At a later date, regulars played a great role in connexion with the universities, but the universities themselves were essentially secular, i.e. non-monastic, institutions. In Italy culture was never so completely the monopoly of the clergy as it came to be in the dark ages of northern Europe. The lay professions of law and medicine were never wholly extinguished; and, when the intellectual revival came, the movement was not so closely connected with the Church. And the universities to which it gave birth, though, like all medieval institutions, they had close relations with the Church, may be looked upon as, on the whole, not only secular but lay institutions. This was one of the great differences which from first to last distinguished the universities of northern Europe from those of the South, or at least of Italy. In the northern universities—the universities of which Paris was the type and mother—the scholar was ipso facto regarded for many purposes as a clerk; he wore, or was supposed to wear, the tonsure and the clerical habit, while the Master was still more definitely invested with the privileges and subject to the restrictions of the ecclesiastical life, including the obligation to celibacy. In Italy the teacher was more often a layman than an ecclesiastic; the scholar was not necessarily a clerk, and the control which ecclesiastical authorities exercised over the universities was only of the kind which they exercised in all spheres of medieval life.

Corresponding with this difference of origin, and the differences of organisation which were more or less connected with it, was a difference between the favourite studies of the two regions. The great revival of intellectual life in northern Europe centred in the teaching of Theology and Philosophy. If the revived study of the Classics was prominent in the earliest phase of the movement—the phase represented by such teachers as Bernard of Chartres and such writers as John of Salisbury— these studies were never prominent at Paris, and were everywhere thrown into the background by the rediscovery of the lost works of Aristotle at the beginning of the thirteenth century. In Italy the movement, though it began with a revival of literary study, and of Roman Law as a branch of ancient literature, soon concentrated itself on a study of Law which became increasingly scientific and professional. Broadly speaking, Paris was the home of scholastic Philosophy and Theology; Bologna was the great school of Law, and, in a subordinate degree, of Medicine. The contrast must not be over-stated: there was a large body of canonists at Paris; Philosophy was studied at Bologna—though chiefly as a preparation for Medicine rather than for Theology. And Medicine was studied in both; as a place of medical study, Bologna was inferior only to Salerno, which, was exclusively a Studium of Medicine. From a period considerably before the actual birth of the university organisation, these three places—Paris, Bologna, Salerno, stood forth as the three great homes of the highest culture. By the twelfth century they had come to be known as Studia Generalia, a term which at first meant simply places of study resorted to by students from all parts. The organisation of Salerno stands by itself. At Paris and Bologna there grew up two different and strongly contrasted types of university organisation; and all later universities were an imitation of one or other of these types or represented a compromise between them. One, however, of these imitations was so ancient, was struck off by the parent university at so early a date and developed on such original lines, that it may almost be said to represent a distinct type of university organisation. Oxford became and was expressly called a Studium Generale at almost as early a date as Paris and Bologna. The development of these two types of university organisation must now be traced separately, though we shall have frequent opportunities of observing the curious and complex ways in which they reacted upon one another.

Before entering upon the history of this development in detail, the most salient point of difference may be stated in advance. The word universitas meant originally “a whole”: it might be applied to any body of men, even to one so comprehensive as all Christian people, who are often addressed by Popes as “universitas vestra,” the whole of you; more technically it is the equivalent of the Roman law-term collegium, a legally recognised corporation. It is frequently applied to town councils or chapters or trade-gilds. The twelfth century was a period during which a great movement towards associations of one kind or another was going on all over Europe. Men of the same calling aggregated themselves into merchant-gilds, trade-gilds, craft-gilds; or, if in some regions of Europe such associations could claim some kind of continuity from the collegia of the old Roman world, it was at this time that they renewed their life, and began to figure prominently in the political organisation of cities and states. The university, in its scholastic sense, was simply a particular kind of trade-gild—an association of persons following a common occu­pation for the regulation of their craft and the protection of their rights

As a health resort and as a place celebrated for the skill of its physicians, Salerno was already famous in the tenth century; in the first half of the twelfth its school of medicine is already spoken of by Ordericus Vitalis as existing from ancient times. Situated at the meeting-place of Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Jewish culture, it became the focus of a revived study of medicine which slightly preceded the general revival of culture and education of which mention has already been made. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make a comparative estimate of the share of Arabic, Jewish, and Greek-Latin writers respectively in this progress, for the earliest authors shew traces of them all. The Hebrew element was probably strong.

Latin translations of the works of Hippocrates and Galen were indeed the basis of the later teaching of the Civitas Hippocratica as of medical scholarship generally, but Jewish writers, especially Isaac Judaeus (Abu- Yaqub Ishaq ibn Sulaiman al-Israili, ob. 953), were largely used by the best known of the early Salerno writers, Constantinus Africanus. The Studium flourished early and decayed early; isolated and out of touch with the rest of Europe it appears to have exercised no constitutional influence upon other universities. Of its internal organisation almost nothing is known save that it was a College of Doctors and not a university of students, and that it had a Praepositus (afterwards called Prior) at its head.

In 1231 the Emperor Frederick II, who had founded a university at Naples seven years previously, came to its rescue by requiring all medical teachers and practitioners to obtain a licence from the King’s Court, only awarded after an examination conducted by the Masters of Salerno. This was followed, as elsewhere, by the usual Inception or Conventio.

Many legends have attached themselves to the school, especially one making it the earliest home of women practitioners and teachers, but this together with the eleventh-century authorship of the popular Regimen Sanitatis Salerni and its dedication to Robert, Duke of Normandy (1054- 1135), as “King of the English,” lacks satisfactory proof. The university seems to have maintained a nominally continuous existence until its abolition by an edict of Napoleon in November 1811.

The secular schools of the Dark Ages were everywhere connected with some cathedral or other great church. They were placed under the government of some capitular dignitary—sometimes of the archdeacon, sometimes of a special official bearing the title of Scholasticus, sometimes (as at Paris) of the Chancellor. At first this official was himself the principal, perhaps the only, teacher. Gradually, as education developed, a custom grew up by which the Chancellor or Scholasticus granted a licence to teach to other masters. A synod at Westminster in 1138 forbade the growing practice of re-selling such licences, while in 1179 the Lateran Council required the authorities to grant a licence to any properly qualified teacher. There was now no obstacle to the multiplication of masters wherever the fame of some illustrious teacher caused an increase of scholars who desired more teaching than the great man himself could give, and many of whom desired eventually to become masters themselves. The growing respect for learning generated an ambition on the part of scholars to obtain the honours attaching to the teacher’s chair, even when they had no intention of devoting themselves, or at least of devoting themselves permanently, to the teacher’s career. The title Master, Doctor, or Professor—originally synonymous—became one which even bishops and cardinals did not scorn to prefix to their names. Out of the groups of duly licensed masters who began to multiply in the great centres of education, the gilds of masters arose.

Paris was not a very ancient, or at first a very famous seat of medieval learning. The stories which connect the origin of the university, or even of the schools of Paris, with Charles the Great—a monarch who does not appear to have visited that city twice in the whole course of his life—may be dismissed as mere legends. The schools of Paris are for the first time mentioned at the end of the ninth century. But William of Champeaux (c. 1070-1121) is the first master of the Cathedral School who gave it any particular distinction; and it was not till the time of his more famous pupil, Peter Abelard (1079-1142), that, Paris rose to a leading position among the schools of northern Europe. But in his time there was no university. The masters obtained their licences from the Chancellor of the cathedral church, and opened schools, sometimes on the crowded island round its walls, sometimes on or near the bridges which connected it with the southern bank (we hear of an Adam de Petit-Pont and an Adam de Grand-Pont), sometimes on the southern bank itself, in the neighbourhood and within the jurisdiction of the great collegiate church—from 1147 the abbey—of Ste Genevieve. Abelard himself at one time taught in “the mount” of Ste Genevieve. But, though at an early period some of the schools were situated within the jurisdiction of the abbey, the Studium was originally the outgrowth of the cathedral school and of that alone.

Though there was no university or formal gild of masters in Abelard’s time, we can discover in the course of his career traces of certain scholastic customs out of which the university of masters ultimately grew. It was naturally expected that no one should assume the functions of a master without having passed a certain number of years under a properly licensed master in the study of the subjects which he proposed to teach, and it was almost equally natural that he should obtain the consent of his teacher to that step. When masters began to multiply, it became usual for them to welcome the new master into their fraternity by some sort of initiation—accompanied by feasting at his expense—and to assist at his inaugural lecture. It may be inferred that some such customs existed in the time of Abelard, for, when the already famous master of the liberal Arts betook himself, after only a short period of study under the aged theologian Anselm of Laon, and without that teacher’s consent, to the teaching of Theology by lecturing on the difficult book of Ezekiel, the act was regarded as an unheard-of piece of audacity, and is made a distinct article of charge against him at the Council of Soissons in 1121. It may be presumed that among the much larger and younger body of Masters in Arts the custom of inception—as it was called—was in a still more developed condition. This simple custom contained in itself the germ of the whole institution. It came to be considered that the “licentiate”—the scholar who had received from the Chancellor licence to teach /licentia docendi)—was not a full master until he had also been made free of the magisterial gild by the ceremony of inception, duly performed, with the concurrence of the whole society, by his ancient master. The University proper consisted of those who had thus been admitted into the masters’ gild by inception. And the trade-union rapidly acquired a monopoly of higher education: membership of the University became, by a custom which hardened into law, as necessary for teaching of the higher type as the Chancellor’s licence. The trade-gilds and the craft-gilds had no doubt originated in much the same way. Another important medieval institution—the institution of Chivalry—arose from the transference of the same idea to the professional army. The young soldier did not become a full soldier or knight (miles) until he had been admitted to the brotherhood of arms by the touch of the veteran’s sword. The blessing of the priest occupied in the knight’s initiation a position somewhat analogous to the Chancellor’s licence in the scholastic career. The term Bachelor was used in connexion with both professions. The soldier who had as yet no others serving under his banner was known as a Knight Bachelor (Bachelier, Baccalaurius). The same term—originally conveying both the notion of youth and that of apprenticeship—was applied to the young scholar who was on probation for the mastership, and was already permitted to act as a subordinate teacher. In the fully developed University, admission to this position was given in a formal manner by the Rector or other head of the university after examination or other preliminary tests, and became a definite step towards the mastership (gradus ad magisterium). The term degree (gradus) began apparently with this inferior stage in the academical career, and was later applied to each of the steps or stages in the scholastic hierarchy—Bachelor, Licentiate, Master or Doctor. Master, Doctor, and Professor, it may be repeated, were originally synonymous. The English usage, by which the term Doctor was appropriated to the higher faculties and that of Master to Arts, was of later growth and did not obtain universally. Professor was occasionally used in the same sense, especially in the faculty of Theology, in which the letters S.T.P. (Sanctae Theologiae Professor) are still occasionally employed. The custom by which the term Professor has come to be confined to the occupants of endowed chairs had scarcely begun at the close of the Middle Ages.

The idea of the inception—in its developed form—involved two elements. In the first place there was the idea derived from the Roman Law that no one was fully in possession of a magistracy or other office until he had actually performed its duties and the inception was the formal assumption of the teacher’s functions; in the second place it was an admission into the gild of teachers by an existing member of it who invested the candidate with the insignia of his office in the presence of the rest. The new Master, after taking the proper oaths of obedience to the officers and statutes of the university, was solemnly seated in the magisterial cathedra; the characteristic book of his faculty (in Arts a work of Aristotle) was placed in his hands; a ring was put upon his finger in token of his marriage to learning; a cap (biretta) was placed on his head, partly as one of the insignia of mastership, partly (after the analogy of the emancipated slave) as a token of his enfranchisement from the subordination of pupilship. The incepting master then left him with a kiss, in token of his admission to the brotherhood, and he proceeded to give his inaugural lecture or disputation. A banquet followed, at the expense of the candidate or candidates. This simple and very human desire to drink the health of a new colleague at his expense may be regarded as the ultimate raison d'être of the whole ceremony with all its momentous historical consequences. The origin of one of the greatest and most characteristic of the institutions which the Middle Age has bequeathed to the modem world has grown out of the schoolboyish desire to make the newcomer “pay his footing.” The institution was everywhere imitated by the students. The masters, who at first tried to suppress, though they eventually sanctioned, the coarse and brutal initiations and demands of entertainment (bejaunia) from the freshman (bejauni or bejani, from bee jaune, a yellow-bill or unfledged bird), were probably unconscious of the large part that the same elementary human instinct had played in the building up of their own universities.

When can we definitely trace the formation of such a gild of masters at Paris? The first indication of any more definite organisation than is implied in the vague customs of Abelard’s age—the first definite proof of the existence of a university anywhere in Europe—is to be found in the life of Johannes de Celia, Abbot of St Albans. Matthew Paris tells us, over half a century later indeed, that the subject of his biography studied at Paris and “merited to attain the society of the elect masters”. This must have been about the year 1170, but we must beware of exaggerating the degree of organisation which the notice implies. It is not till after the beginning of the following century that the society had a sufficiently definite existence to elect common officers, to use a common seal, or to attempt corporate action of a legal character; even then its right to do so was not undisputed.

The university, like all the greatest institutions, was not founded but grew. It soon, however, began to obtain recognition, privileges, and charters from civil and ecclesiastical authorities. The first documentary recognition of the University of Paris is a charter granted by Philip Augustus in 1200. This earliest “privilege,” like so many of its successors, was granted as a solace to the scholars after a defeat—a tavern­brawl, culminating in a riot, wherein they had suffered severely at the hands of the townsmen, headed by the leader of the municipal body (if at this time it can be so called), the Provost of Paris. The then Provost was severely punished, and his successors were required in future to take an oath to respect the privileges of the scholars in the presence of the masters assembled in one of the churches of Paris. This originated the Provost’s position as “Conservator of the royal privileges of the University.” But even this document only recognises the existence of the University as such in so far as it treats the assembly of masters as a definite body of persons in the habit of holding meetings. The privileges are conferred, not on the Society as such but on the masters and scholars as individuals, the chief privilege being that of surrender to the ecclesiastical judge for trial, which the scholars already enjoyed by custom as “clerks.” A clause protecting from “arrest” at the hands of secular justice the capitate Parisiensium scolarium was long supposed to mean the Rector, and was even by Denifle taken to mean any master of the university. It really refers to the seizure of a scholar’s chattels; in English we still talk of “arresting” a ship. It may safely be affirmed that no official of the university or of any section of it existed at this time; a reference to the scholars of “different provinces,” long supposed to prove the existence of the Nations about the year 1170, implies nothing of the kind. The University Statutes—three very simple ones, evidently new—are only heard of in 1209. By a bull of about the same date the university is allowed to elect a “proctor” (i.e. a procurator ad litem) to act for it in legal transactions.

The need for such a proctor arose out of a great litigation in which the university was already engaged with the Chapter and Chancellor of Paris, One of the matters in dispute was precisely the right of the masters to form a corporation, to “sue and be sued” in a corporate capacity. The university was still being treated, just as the earliest trade-unions were treated by the English Courts for a century after their de facto existence, as an unlawful society, a “conspiracy” (the word is expressly used) of the masters against their lawful superiors—the Bishop, Chapter, and Chancellor of Paris. By the aid of successive papal bulls the “conspiracy,” however, succeeded. Already since 1212 the Chancellor had been forbidden to exact an oath of obedience to himself from, the masters whom he licensed; and he was required to license gratuitously all candidates presented to him. By the end of the century he had lost the power of imprisoning scholars and practically all judicial powers. The Bishop, not the Chancellor, became the index ordinarius of scholars. His power was, in fact, reduced to litt le more than the ceremonial function of granting the licence and to a share in the appointment of examiners. It is in the course of this great struggle on the part of the university for emancipation from the authority which the Chancellor had hitherto exercised over masters and scholars that the necessity for electing common officers was first felt. By the year 1219 masters had elected certain officers “for the avenging of injuries,” and for the collection and administration of funds with a view to the prosecution of their suit against the Chancellor. There can be no doubt that these officials were the Proctors of the four Nations into which the Masters of Arts had now divided themselves—probably in imitation of the four universities of students which had already been established at Bologna. The Nations consisted of Masters of Arts only. At first there was no common Head of the Faculty of Arts, but only the four Proctors of the Nations, originally, it is probable, also styled “Rectors.” By 1245 we hear of a separate head, of the whole Faculty of Arts, and to that official the title of Rector was soon appropriated. The Masters of Theology, Canon Law, and Medicine formed separate groups outside and independent of the Masters of Arts. The word Faculty, facultas, the accepted Latin equivalent of meant originally an art or branch of knowledge. It gradually came to be applied also to the body of persons professing such a branch, and particularly to the organised groups of teachers of a particular subject in a university town. The study of the Civil Law, it may be added, was forbidden at Paris in 1219—probably to prevent the extinction of theological study in its most famous home; so that after this date the Law Faculty consisted mainly of Canonists. The fact that few of the most famous universities at the height of their fame possessed all the possible faculties ought, by itself, to have prevented the mistake of supposing that a Studium Generale meant a Studium in which all subjects were taught.

Thus, by about the middle of the thirteenth century, the University of Paris had gradually organised itself into a federal corporation of four distinct bodies, of which one—the Faculty of Arts—was further sub­divided into four Nations: France, Normandy, Picardy, England. The names of the four Nations were those of the nationalities which then predominated at Paris, but every country of Europe found itself allotted to one of these bodies. All southern Europe was assigned, for instance, to France; Germany was included in England, and eventually, when English masters at Paris had become few, the Nation was styled German. Each nation had its head or Proctor, elected every three months; the whole Faculty of Arts was presided over by the Rector. Each superior faculty was presided over by a Dean. The Rector was at first merely the head of the Faculty of Arts. But from the first he acted as a representative of the whole university, which, since it energetically repudiated the headship of the extraneous Chancellor, was otherwise without ahead, and he practically presided during the common meetings of the four Faculties. It was not till after a long series of struggles that the Rector fought his way to the headship of the university, and the fighting was very literal fighting; on several occasions it assumed the form of a physical encounter in church between the partisans of the Rector and those of the Dean of Theology. At Congregations of the whole university the voting was “by Faculties”; and the discussions took place only in the separate meetings of the whole university. The vote of the Faculty of Arts was taken by nations: a single English master was thus at one time endowed with a voting power equivalent to the whole body of French masters. The principle of majority-voting was at first not universally recognised, even in the separate assemblies of the Faculty or Nation. The proceedings of these bodies frequently illustrate Maitland’s now famous generalisation: “the medieval assembly legislated only by unanimity.” It was by a still more gradual process of constitutional evolution that it was settled that the whole university was bound by the decision of a majority of Faculties, and that of the Faculty of Arts by a majority of Nations. There was one moment in the history of Europe when an ecclesiastical problem of immense difficulty was solved by an imitation of the Parisian university constitution. Such ecclesiastical reforms as the Council of Constance actually succeeded in accomplishing were made possible by adopting the system of voting by nations, which enabled the small bodies of English and German prelates to hold their own against the swarm of curialist episcopelli from petty Italian sees.

One peculiar feature of the Parisian university organisation remains to be noticed. How far the schools on the south bank of the river maintained a continuous existence from the time when Abelard taught in “the mount” may perhaps be doubtful; but, at all events soon after the beginning of the thirteenth century, schools began to multiply in what is now known as the “quartier latin” of Paris, i.e. the quarter opposite Notre Dame on the south of the Seine. There teachers found themselves outside the jurisdiction of the Chancellor of Paris, and within that of the Abbot of Ste Genevieve. The masters got their licences from the Abbot of Ste Genevieve or (by 1255) from a separate chancellor appointed by the abbot. The existence of this separate licensing authority was a fact of great importance to the university in its early struggle with the cathedral authorities. If the Chancellor of Paris or his examiner were troublesome, candidates would go to Ste Genevieve. The university thus possessed two chancellors, and the Faculty of Arts two separate examining bodies. The Chancellor of Ste Genevieve never extended his licensing authority to the superior faculties. It may be added that, down to the latest medieval period, the expression “Chancellor of the University was unknown at Paris, though (when the office was initiated in other universities) that expression was freely used.

It is impossible within our limits to give any adequate account of the great struggle by which the university gradually acquired its autonomy and its privileges. On two great occasions at least the university resorted to the heroic remedy of decreeing a “dispersion.” In 1229 this remedy was attempted against the Provost of Paris whose police had killed some students in the course of a riot; the intervention of Pope Gregory IX not merely procured the redress of the university grievances, but led to the issue of the university’s chief papal privilege, the bull Parent Scientiarum of 1231, which established the independence of the university against the chancellor. A more important war was waged by the university in 1251-7 against the pretensions of the Friars, who wanted to occupy university chairs without submitting to the university discipline. In this case the university resorted not merely to a temporary “dispersion,” but to an actual “dissolution.” But here the Papacy was on the side of the university’s enemies. The university was compelled to recognise in a qualified form the claims of the Mendicant and other regular Doctors of Theology, though the Masters of Arts always managed to exclude them from their Faculty. These conflicts deserve to be mentioned, even in a passing way, because they illustrate the real meaning of the institution, and of the process by which the universities became the powerful corporations that they were in the late Middle Ages. It was in the course of these struggles, and for the purpose of carrying them on, that the University of Paris perfected its own organisation and discipline. It was just this power of temporarily or permanently suspending its own existence or transferring itself to another place which formed its most powerful weapon of offence. The universities as such possessed in their earlier period no buildings of their own and practically no endowments. They met in some borrowed church or chapter-house—the University of Paris in the Mathurine convent or the Bernardine chapter­house, its Faculty of Arts in the little Norman Church of St Julien-le-Pauvre off the Rue de Fouarre, which still survives. Its lecture-rooms were hired rooms in or near this famous street—so called from the straw with which the floors of the otherwise unwarmed schools were strewn. The mobility which this poverty secured enabled a university at any moment to transfer itself to another town, or by suspending its lectures to attract the attention of authorities who were not anxious to see the suspension culminate in a final dispersion or a gradual dropping away of students to other universities. In all the more ancient universities whole­sale “migrations” or “secessions” of discontented minorities were of common occurrence. But while these migrations generally succeeded in procuring a redress of grievances, they often weakened the parent bodies by leading to the establishment of permanent rivals. Half the universities of Europe originated in migrations of this kind from older universities.


From the organisation we must turn to the studies of the University. In the dark ages of European history the normal secular instruction of the schools was represented by the traditional classification of human knowledge into the Trivium—grammar, rhetoric, dialectic or logic—and the Quadrivium—arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The authors in whom these subjects were studied were chiefly the writers who had occupied themselves with reducing to compendiums the surviving relics of ancient science and learning, more especially Boethius and Martianus Capella. Of Aristotle himself nothing was generally known in Western Europe but Boethius’ translation of the De Interpretation and an abridgement of the Categories. The rest of the Organon was known only through the commentaries of Boethius. Nevertheless, the Logic of Aristotle formed the most important and stimulating element in the secular education of the Dark Ages, and determined the direction assumed by the great educational and intellectual revival of the twelfth century. At first, indeed, the renewal of interest in the Classics was a formidable rival to Logic and the new tendency to apply the weapons of Logic to the field of theological controversy. But the study of the Classics never attained any great importance at Paris, and the gradual recovery of nearly all the now extant works of Aristotle threw into the shade the literary studies which in eleventh-century France showed every prospect of anticipating the movement commonly associated with Italy and the fourteenth century. John of Salisbury, the pupil of Abelard, had before him the whole Organon of Aristotle. By the beginning of the thirteenth century other works of Aristotle began to find their way to Paris—translated, some from the Arabic which came into northern Europe through the contact of Latin scholars with the Arabic Aristotle in Spain, some in translations directly from the Greek which were due to Lutin scholars and were, perhaps, a direct result of the capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Eventually, soon after the middle of the century, nearly the whole surviving Aristotelian corpus was available for the use of the Parisian master in translations made direct from the Greek. The new Scholasticism did not conquer without a struggle. Aristotle did not, indeed, originate that great wave of heresy which began to pass over Europe, starting from the south of France, towards the end of the twelfth century. But there were tendencies in the Metaphysics of Aristotle—and still more in the commentaries of Averroes and other Arabian philosophers which came to Paris at about the same time—which coincided with the pantheistic tendencies of men like Amaury of Bene, condemned at Paris in 1207, and David of Dinant whose works were burnt in the year 1210. The Parisian synod, by which this last execution was ordered, also forbade the reading of Aristotle’s “books on natural philosophy and his commentaries.” The first body of university Statutes in which subjects of study are mentioned—that drawn up by the legate, Robert de Courson, in 1215—forbade the reading of the “physical and metaphysical works of Aristotle,” and the prohibition was renewed in 1231 and in 1263. But in spite of this we find the prohibitions removed or practically ignored’, and the great Dominican thinkers, Albert the Great and St Thomas Aquinas, found a better way of combating such heresies as “the eternity of the world” and “the unity of the active intellect” than by mere prohibition. They had begun, the task of creating a great system of Aristotelian Philosophy and Theology in which whatever in Aristotle was orthodox or capable of an orthodox twist was woven into the very woof and fibre of the Church’s teaching. From this time onwards Aristotle represents the sum and substance of a medieval education in the Faculty of Arts. A knowledge of Latin, and the rules of Latin Grammar are, indeed, presupposed and exacted in the university examinations, and this knowledge was acquired by the reading of a few Latin books, especially Ovid and. Virgil. But the teaching of these authors was for the most part left to the grammar school, which the student left at an increasingly early age—often before he was fourteen. There is also some rather perfunctory recognition of the other subjects embraced in the Trivium and the Quadrivium, and of the authors in which they were learned. But Aristotle and the Boethian commentaries upon him were the main subject of instruction. By 1366 the following is the list of books “ taken up for the schools” at Paris, i.e., books which the student was required to have “ heard,” and in which he was examined :

For B.A.-Grammar—The Doctrinale of Alexander de Villa Dei and the Grecismus.

Logic —The Organon and De Anima of Aristotle with the Isagoge of Porphyry, the Principia of Gilbert de la Porrée, the Divisions and Topics of Boethius.

For the Licence —Aristotle’s Physica, De Generation# et Corruptions, De Caelo et Mundo, Parva Naturalia, and Liber Metaphysicae, together with “certain mathematical books” (possibly such books as are prescribed in other universities: the first six books of Euclid, the Almagestum of Porphyry, the De Sphaera of Johannes de bacrobosco, the Perspective communia of John of Pisa).

The “greater part” of Aristotle’s Ethics and part of the Meteorics were to be “heard” between licence and inception. The book of Aristotle which exercised the most profound influence on medieval thought was the Metaphysics, which was already lectured on in 1254, and was required at Oxford in the fifteenth century.

This course of study occupied at least five or six years. Every secular student of theology and every intending physician had to take the whole of this course, culminating in the M. A. degree, before he began the study of his own “ higher faculty”; for students of Law a degree in Arts was not necessary, though it is probable that many or most of them began their university course with a period of study in Arts. But it is certain that for the great majority of medieval university students—most of whom were intended for the priesthood—this course, regarded as the essential foundation for the study of Theology, remained a foundation without a superstructure. Two-thirds, as is shown by actual names and numbers at many German universities, never graduated at all; less than half of those who had the B.A, degree proceeded to M.A. And of these last only a small number proceeded to the study of Theology. This fact should be borne in mind as a partial explanation of the gross theological ignorance of the average secular priest at the time of the Reformation. The bishop’s examination for orders did nothing to rectify the deficiency. The candidate was examined, so far as appears, chiefly in Latin grammar "and in reading or construing some portion of the missal.

In the Faculty of Theology the only books actually lectured upon were the Bible and the Sentences of Peter the Lombard—the only one of the numerous attempts made in the twelfth century to elicit an organised system of theology out of the unsystematic and often conflicting utterances of the Fathers which had the good fortune to pass into the position of an authorised text-book. The full theological course was of enormous length and was divided as follows. For four years the student attended lectures on the Bible, and for two years on the Sentences. After these six years of study (if he had attained the age of twenty-five) he might be examined and, if passed, be admitted by the Dean to his first course. By this step he became a Bachelor of Divinity or Bibliary. For two years he lectured successively on the two books of the Bible. At the end of nine years of study he might be admitted to the reading of the Sentences, and lectured as a sententiarius for a year, on the completion of which he became a Baccalaurius formatus. Three or four years more elapsed before he could present himself for the Chancellors licence. This was followed, after the interval of about a year, by the actual inception, which made him a full Doctor of Theology. The whole course, therefore, occupied a period of twelve or thirteen years; but it would appear that, during the later years of the theologian’s course, continuous residence was not insisted upon.

The course of Canon Law at Paris did not differ materially from that of the corresponding faculty at Bologna, and had best be spoken of in connexion with the university which was the especial home of legal study. Nor can we linger on the details of the medical curriculum further than to say that Galen is here more prominent than Hippocrates, and that the Arabic Medicine is less prominent than at Bologna.

In all the faculties quite as much importance was attached to disputations as to lectures and examinations—most of all, perhaps, in the theological faculty. It would involve too much detail to enumerate the various disputations in which the candidate had to respond at different periods of his career. Whether looked upon as a method of education or as a method of examination, the disputations shared the advantages and the disadvantages of the scholastic method with which they were inextricably bound up. In whichever light it is considered, the efficiency of the institution declined with the general decline and corruption of the philosophy with which it was so intimately connected. Long before the close of the medieval period the tendency of the disputation to degenerate into a piece of mere routine had reached such a point that, in 1426, a Bachelor of Theology, refused his licence owing to the character of his performances, actually brought an action in the Parlement of Paris against his examiners, and pleaded tha t the faculty had no right to refuse it to anyone who had gone through the proper “exercises,” no matter how he had acquitted himself.

The students of Paris, as of all other medieval universities, originally lived in the town, where and how they pleased. In point of fact the usual way of living was for a party of students to take a house together, in which they formed a small self-governing comm unity. These establishments were at Paris usually called hospitia, at Oxford halls (aulae). The young nobleman might hire a house of his own for himself, with his own tutor and a numerous retinue; the poorest students could not afford the expense of a regular hospitium,and lodged in a garret or a tradesman’s house. But the great majority were members of some hospitium. One of the socii (as members of the same student-household were called) gave security for the rest of the house, collected their contributions, and generally presided over the establishment. The Principal was at first elected by the community, or at least owed his authority to the consent of those who agreed to join his society. Gradually, however, through the support given to his authority by the university and possibly through the influence of the endowed societies of which we shall proceed to speak, this extremely democratic regime gave way to a more autocratic one. The change is symbolised by the fact that the societies—at least those in which younger students lived—came to be generally known as paedagogia and the head of them as paedagogi. At an early period in the history of the university it entered into the minds of charitable persons to provide endowments for the assistance of poor scholars. The earlier of these foundations were merely appendages to some larger establishment. Such was the body of scholars afterwards known as the College des Dix-huit, which was founded in 1180 and at first occupied a single room in the Hotel-Dieu. Half-a-dozen small foundations of this character were established before the middle of the thirteenth century. An altogether new conception of a college was introduced by St Louis' chaplain, Robert de Sorbon, who in 1258 began the establishment of a college no longer (like the earlier endowments) for Grammarians or Artists, but for students in Theology. The age and maturity of the students naturally brought with it a larger measure of autonomy, though to the last the Parisian colleges enjoyed rather less independence than the corresponding foundations at Oxford and Cambridge. They were generally, for instance, filled up by the appointment of some outside authority—often the bishop or some cathedral dignitaries of the founder’s diocese; and in some cases a Provisor, who occupied a position half-way between that of an English Visitor and that of an English Head, exercised considerable control over the Master (as the resident presiding official was generally called) and the members of the society. A still more extensive establishment was the College of Navarre, founded in 1314 by Joan I, Queen of Navarre, consort of Philip the Fair, which provided for twenty students in Grammar, thirty in Arts, and twenty in Theology, each with a separate Master, Hall, and collegiate establishment, the chapel alone being common to all three sections of the community. Over sixty colleges were established before the year 1500, and (contrary to a prevailing impression in England) they played quite as prominent a part in the life of the university as they did in Oxford and Cambridge, At first the colleges boarded and lodged only their foundation-members, and whatever teaching was given in them was simply private instruction supplementary to that which their students received in the public schools of the university. But from the end of the thirteenth century the college occasionally took in paying boarders to be educated with their own foundation-members. There is no reason to believe that, this custom prevailed to any great extent before the fifteenth century, but by the middle of that century the great mass of students lived either in colleges or in regular paedagogia; and the majority lived in college. In 1445 we even find the university declaring that, almost the whole university resides in the colleges.In 1457 the university forbade residence out of a college or paedagogy. The superior discipline of the college increased the desire of parents to send their sons to them, and helped forward the changes by which the autonomous hospitium of the thirteenth century transformed itself into the strictly disciplinal master’s boarding­house of the fifteenth. Those who are familiar with the wild license and disorder which might be illustrated from every page of the earlier university records will probably be of opinion that the change was a step in the right direction. In the thirteenth century the boy-student of thirteen or fourteen had been free to choose his own residence, migrate from it to another if his Principal’s rule was too exacting; he attended lectures or neglected them, wandered about the town at all hours, drank, gambled, quarrelled, and fought as he pleased. By the end of the fifteenth century he was almost reduced to be the inmate of a boarding-school—disciplined, regulated, and even whipped at the discretion of the Principal.

The change in the position of the colleges was connected with another still more momentous. The fundamental defect of the medieval university was the absence of any pecuniary provision for competent teaching. Every doctor or master had the right to teach. In the higher faculties the teaching was largely left to the bachelors, who were obliged to lecture as a condition of proceeding to a higher degree. Every Master of Arts was compelled to lecture for a year after admission to his degree. This was called his necessary. Regency. At the end of the year he could continue to lecture as long as he pleased; and only so long as he did so could he exercise the full rights of membership in his faculty. Study or teaching in a university was by Canon Law a ground of absence from a canonry or a parochial benefice; and it was only the system by which such non-residence was encouraged—and especially the systematic preferment of university graduates by papal provision—which kept up the supply of Regent Masters or Doctors in the university. But even so the system was a bad one. Especially in the Faculty of Arts the teachers were a body of mostly young, inexperienced, and constantly changing men, who had satisfied no test but the totally inadequate requirements of the university examiners, supported (if unbeneficed) by the scanty and precarious fees of the students. As boarders multiplied in the colleges, the masters came to be assisted by paid Regents. The more efficient teachers were naturally snapped up by the colleges. And the system was rendered more efficient by the practice of sending the students in the paedagogia and smaller colleges for lectures and exercises to the larger ones, which came to be known as colleges de plein exercice, in each of which a systematic course of study was provided by an adequate staff of Regents. The lectures of the public schools dwindled into a dreary routine and ultimately ceased altogether. Ramus, the revolutioniser of the traditional Logic, records the recent death of the last Regent who had lectured in the Rue de Fouarre. This silent revolution not only made for efficiency but materially helped forward the transformation of the medieval programme of studies into that which we associate with the Renaissance. The Classics could not be taught efficiently—at least to boys in their early stages—by way of formal lecturing. Smaller classes, compulsory preparation, construing in class, the correction of written tasks, individual attention, became possible in the colleges as they had not been in the university schools. How far the increased demand for classical teaching was the cause and how far the effect of the increased importance of college-teaching, it is hard to say; but it is certain that the two movements were closely connected.

If we look back upon the changes which had taken place in the government and constitution of the university since its early days, we shall find that a change had been effected closely analogous to that with which we are familiar in the history of Oxford and Cambridge. The university had transformed itself for practical purposes into a federation of colleges. The change was not so complete as at Oxford. The university exercised more control over the colleges than was the case at Oxford; and the superior faculties maintained a much more independent existence. But even in the Faculty of Theology there was a close connexion between the faculties and certain colleges. The theologians held their disputations in the hall of the Sorbonne, which admitted many theologians outside its endowed members to a kind of honorary membership; and in post-medieval times the theological faculty came to be popularly spoken of as “the Sorbonne.” The parallel with the constitutional development of Oxford and Cambridge might be carried farther if our limits of time permitted. In the seventeenth century the turbulent academic democracy of the Middle Ages was practically superseded by an oligarchic “Tribunal of the University,” consisting of the Rector, the three Deans, and the four Proctors—to an even greater extent than it was supplanted at Oxford by the “Hebdpmadal Board,” which consisted of the Vice-Chancellor, Heads of Colleges, and the two Proctors.

Northern Italy participated to the full in the great intellectual new birth of the twelfth century. But the movement here took a characteristically different direction. Here, as in northern France, the movement was at first largely literary—a revived study of Latin literature; it was followed, not as at Paris by an outburst of speculation, but rather by a revived interest in Law. The predominant interests of the Italian mind were practical, social, civil. Even the ecclesiastic was more interested in Church Law than in Theology. Scholasticism of course reached Italy; but the study of Aristotle was abandoned for the most part to the physicians, and that of Theology to the Friars—in each case to a class whose studies were directed to the ends of practical life rather than to those of theory. If some of the greatest schoolmen were born in Italy, they were seldom genuine Italians, and they taught chiefly outside Italy. Thomas Aquinas was a Norman; Bonaventura was hardly a great thinker, and he taught at Paris. Though the scholastic method was not without its marked influence upon the study of Law, the legal renaissance of Italy arose chiefly out of a literary interest in the monuments of ancient jurisprudence, and was developed in response to political and social rather than purely intellectual needs.

The story—long accepted on the authority of Gibbon, in spite of his sceptical footnote—that the origin of the legal renaissance is to be found in the accidental discovery of a copy of the Pandects at the capture of Amalfi by the Pisans in 1135 may be dismissed as a pure myth. Roman Law had never been dead in Italy. So long as it was known, it was always supposed to be the law of the tribunals, at least for the conquered Roman and for the ecclesiastics; and the profession of lay lawyers—iudices, advocati, notarii—had never ceased to exist. Law as a branch of rhetoric was even included in the school curriculum of the Dark Ages; Lanfranc of Pavia studied, his biographer tells us: in the schools of the liberal arts, and of the secular laws, according to the custom of his country. But both teaching and practice were based upon the Institutes, the Code, and the Breviarium rather than upon the Pandects. Even the Pandects, or Digest, were not absolutely unknown in the time of Irnerius, with whose fame the rise of Bologna is traditionally connected, nor was Bologna the earliest scientific school of Law in Italy. There are vague traces of some such school, or at least a traditional study of Law, at Rome in the eleventh century. There was a flourishing school of Lombard Law at Pavia at about the same date, while all through the Dark Ages Ravenna was the centre of Roman law-teaching in Italy, and remained so till it was superseded by the growth of the school of Bologna. Bologna was already famous as a school of the liberal arts in 1000, and the name of one famous pre-Irnerian law-teacher has been preserved to us, a certain Pepo, who is mentioned in a document of 1076 which expressly quotes the Digest as a ground for its decision. It is probable, in fact, that in a sense the teaching and practice of the Roman Law existed continuously from the days of the old Roman Empire down to the time of Irnerius. And the revival had begun a generation or two before Irnerius; but there can be no doubt that roughly the traditional view is justified which connects the rise of a great school of Law in Bologna and a consequent revolution in the study of Law in Italy and throughout Europe with the name of that doctor. Irnerius taught at Bologna probably in the earliest years of the twelfth century. His name is first mentioned as a causidicus in a document of 1113, and there is reason to believe that his activity as a teacher began still earlier .

The new teaching centred in the systematic study of the Digest, from which alone of all the Corpus Juris an adequate insight into the true spirit and genius of Roman Law is to be obtained. It seems that the movement was connected, in a more dramatic way than is usual in such movements, with a datable event—the actual arrival of a copy of the Roman Law at Bologna, not from Amalfi but from Ravenna. And the work arrived in sections, a fact which left permanent traces in the traditional divisions of the Corpus luris. The earliest section, known as the Digestum Vetus, arrived perhaps in the time of Pepo. Other sections of it arrived later, and continued to be known as the Tres Partes, the Infortiatum, and the Digestum Novum. The arbitrariness of the divisions between them—the Tres Partes actually begins in the middle of a paragraph—testifies to their accidental character. The Old Digest and the Code were “ordinary” books—the subjects of the earliest lectures at Bologna—the other books of the Corpus Juris (which were introduced later) were “extraordinary.” The ordinary books were reserved for doctors and for the best hours of the day, i.e. the morning, and the distinction eventually spread (with modifications) to other faculties and other universities, and originated by a long and complicated evolution the still surviving distinction between ordinary and extraordinary professors.

The position which Irnerius holds in the annals of the Civil Law was taken in the history of the Canon Law by Gratian, a monk of the Camaldulensian monastery at Bologna. He was not, however, a teacher but a writer—the first who succeeded in reducing to the form of a code, or rather of a text-book, the confused mass of conciliar canons, patristic dicta, and papal decretals from which the law of the Church had hitherto been gleaned. Burchard of Worms, Anselm of Lucca, and Cardinal Deusdedit had been before him; but the Decretum of Gratian, which appeared about the year 1142, superseded all its predecessors. From that time, if not before, the Canon Law—derived in part from the Civil Law and reduced to a system in imitation or rivalry of it—became as important an element in the studies of Bologna as the jurisprudence of ancient Rome. The Doctors of the Canon Law now became a body distinct alike from the Theologians and from the Civilians, though much more closely connected with the latter than with the former. The subject of the earlier Canonists’ studies was simply the Decretum, which occupies in that faculty much the same position as the Sentences of Peter the Lombard in the theological schools. To these were gradually added the successive collections of Decretals authoritatively issued by successive Popes—the five books of Decretals put forth by Gregory IX, the “Liber Sextus” by Boniface VIII, and the “Clementines” by John XXII. These together formed the Corpus Juris Canonici.

All through the twelfth century Bologna was the home of a succession of eminent jurists who attracted swarms of students from all parts of Europe. In fact, the fame of Bologna and its jurists was never higher than it was in the days of the “four Doctors”—Bulgarus, Martinus, Jacobus, Hugo—who belong to the generation after Irnerius. Bologna was fully established in European opinion as a Studium Generale. But, as there was no “University” at Paris in the days of Abelard, so there was none (so far as we know) at Bologna in the time of Irnerius and his first successors. The forged charter of Theodosius II—forged, it is curious to note, as early as the thirteenth century—belongs to the legendary history of the Studium. It has often been the habit to speak of the famous “AuthenticumHabita, issued by Frederick I in 1158, as a foundation charter, or at least as the first official recognition of the university. But, though it was no doubt issued primarily for the benefit of the Bologna doctors and scholars, not only does it involve no official recognition of any organised scholastic body, but the privileges which it confers are not restricted to Bologna. It was a charter of privilege for the student-class throughout the Empire, giving them among other privileges the right of having their causes—whether civil or criminal—tried at their own option either by the bishop or their own doctor. In later days the right of trial by a bishop was limited to the case of clerks; the right of trial by the student’s own doctor, while theoretically admitted, was practically superseded by the growth of the university and the jurisdiction of the Rectors. But, though the Authentic directly recognises no academic body whatever, it indirectly supplies a presumption that some sort of process of graduation, implying the existence in a shadowy form of a doctoral society, already existed. The Emperor would hardly have conferred a legal jurisdiction upon a body of teachers complexly self-chosen and self-styled like our modern “Professors” of dancing or of legerdemain. An inception or (as it was called in Italy) a conventus” at least as formal, and a society at least as much organised, as we have seen to have existed among the Masters of Paris at just about the same time, may therefore be presumed to have existed in Bologna in the year 1158. In the year 1215 we read of the grammarian Boncompagno reading his Rhetorica Antiqua before the University of Professors of the Civil and Canon Law. What definiteness of organisation the two Colleges of Doctors—one of the Civil, the other of the Canon Law—had obtained by this date it is impossible to say; but it is certain that long before that day a regular system of examination and graduation must have existed at Bologna, and the degrees must have been conferred by the doctors themselves, for the simple reason that there was no one else to confer them. No traditional control of education by the Church was then in existence. But the powerful analogy of Paris seemed to suggest that some authority more public and more formal than that of the doctors was required to confer a distinction to which so much prestige was now attached; and in 1219 a bull of Honorius III conferred the right of promotion, as it was styled, upon the archdeacon of Bologna. The share which the archdeacon took in the conferment of the degree was purely formal, and he never attempted to make it more. The real test, or “private examination,” was conducted by the doctors beforehand; the “public examination” or “conventus” (answering to the Parisian inception) was a mere ceremony. At a much later date the archdeacon was popularly spoken of as the “Chancellor of the University”; but he is never so called in the Middle Ages. When, however, in other universities similar authority was given to some high ecclesiastic, generally the bishop, he was always styled Chancellor of the University.

At Bologna, as at Paris, the doctors formed a gild, or rather a number of faculty-gilds, which regulated the conditions on which members might be received into their body, and made other statutes for the government of their members. But at Bologna it was not the doctors but the students themselves who formed what came to be known as the University, or rather, the Universities. In the northern Studia attempts on the part of the students to organise themselves into a society were sternly repressed, and in most cases successfully; at Bologna they succeeded in completely dominating the Studium, getting all real power (except only the conduct of graduations) into their own hands, and reducing the professors into the position of their obedient, humble servants. The date at which these gilds began to be formed can be fixed with greater precision than the beginnings of the doctoral colleges. Towards the close of the twelfth century the jurist Bassianus, in commenting upon the title De Collegia, disputes the right of the students to elect a rector. It was probably the last quarter—perhaps the last decade—of the twelfth century whichsaw the birth of the first university of students. Although this was later than the first beginnings of the society of Masters at Paris, the further steps towards organisation at Paris—the formation of “Nations,” the election of Proctors and Rectors and the like—were no doubt imitations by the Parisian Masters of Arts of the organisation already established by the students of Bologna.

From about the middle of the thirteenth century there were at Bologna two universities of jurists—a Universitas Ultramontanorum and a Universitas Citramontanorum; but the analogy of other universities known to have been founded by migration or secession from Bologna make it almost certain that at one time there were four; while more direct evidence points to the conclusion that the Cismontmie University arose from a federation of three smaller societies. In later days these smaller “Nations”—Roman, Tuscan, and Campanian—remained as subdivisions of the Cismontane University, and they were further subdivided into Consiliariaebodies of students coming from the same locality and electing one councillor a-piece. The Ultramontane University had nothing corresponding to these large national divisions, but was divided into fourteen Comiliariae only. Though each university was governed by its own Rector, the alliance between them was more than federal. There were no separate congregations of each university, but a single congregation jointly presided over by the two Rectors. As may well be imagined, this enormous and cosmopolitan body of law-students which assembled in the great Dominican church, or (it may be) in the square outside, was incapable of direct legislation; it met only for electoral purposes. Its statutes were made by eight specially appointed Statutuarii, and as in the ancient Greek and the medieval Italian republics, statute-making was not a matter of every-day occurrence: statutes were supposed to be permanent. In the Bologna universities they could be revised every twenty years. The ordinary executive business of the corporation was carried on by the rectors and the Consiliarii; from the judicial decisions of the rector there was an appeal to the Consiliarii. The constituent Nations or Consiliariae had, at least in some cases, separate meetings of their own—chiefly for festive and ecclesiastical purposes. The German Nation in particular enjoyed peculiar privileges and manifested a special degree of corporate life. One of the earliest and most complete records of the kind which we possess is the accounts of the German Nation beginning in the thirteenth century. The receipts consist chiefly of the payments by its members upon matriculation, the amount being assessed according to the wealth of the students; the expenditure is chiefly upon candles for the corporate services and wine for the festive gatherings. An unusual expenditure upon the latter object is usually followed by an item “pro vitris fractis.” The Italian universities themselves, it may be remarked, were somewhat aristocratic bodies. Not only poor students who could pay no fee upon matriculation, but all who lived “at others’ expense”— that is to say, the large body of students who were sent to the university not by their own relations but out of charity by rich ecclesiastics and others—had no vote in the university congregations.

The original object of the student universities was not primarily to direct studies or to appoint teachers, but to protect themselves against, or to secure favourable treatment from all manner of authorities and corporate enemies—and especially the city-government, the virtual republic, of Bologna. In cosmopolitan Paris, the bulk of the masters themselves had no special connexion with Paris: many of them were foreigners, all were ecclesiastics; and ecclesiastics in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were citizens of the world. Here, therefore, we find masters and scholars uniting to protect themselves against the outside world—whether the provost and citizens on the one hand, or the chancellor and the chapter on the other. At Bologna the doctors, in the period during which the universities grew up, were actually citizens of Bologna. Consequently they were incapable of becoming even members of the academic commonwealth. Students who were natives of Bologna shared the same disfranchisement. But, though excluded from the privileges of university membership, the professors were bv no means exempt from its authority. By the use of its powers of combination, boycotting, and “collective bargaining,” the trade-union of students managed to reduce the professors to a most humiliating state of servitude. The professors had to swear obedience to the student-rectors and the student-made statutes; and these regulated the conduct of the professor with the utmost severity. He was fined if he was a minute late for lecture, if he went on beyond the time for closing, if he skipped a difficult passage, or failed to get through in a given time the portions of the law-texts provided by the universities. A committee of students—the dcnunciatores doctorumwatched over his conduct and kept the rectors informed of his irregularities. The doctor might not leave the town even for a day without leave of the rectors, lest perchance he should be bribed away by some tempting offer on the part of a neighbouring university. If he wanted to be married, a single day of absence was graciously allowed him, but no honeymoon.

In the earliest days of the university, the doctors of Bologna lived on the fees of their students. It was their custom to carry on the process of collective bargaining through the mediation of a student; and we find the learned Odofred, for instance, publicly commenting in the course of his lectures upon the niggardliness of his payments: he should give, he announces, this year no “extraordinary” lectures (which were optional) because his students were not “good paymasters”. After the neighbouring cities had succeeded in setting up rival Studia and attracting eminent doctors to these, the city-government found it expedient to offer solaria to some of the doctors. The election to the salarial chairs at first belonged to the students, and the election was only for a year at a time. As, however, the amount of the salaries increased, the city—through a committee known as the Reformatores Studiigradually established a more and more complete control over the appointments. This system was everywhere adopted in the Italian universities, and did more than anything else to differentiate their subsequent history from that of such universities as Paris and Oxford. The teaching came to be practically confined to the holders of salaried chairs, though a certain amount of rather perfunctory lectures were given by bachelors as exercises for the doctorate. And these professors were adequately paid. It was in these universities, in fact, that a professoriate in the modern sense was first established. The doctor as such practically lost the right of teaching. The decay of university teaching which we have already noticed at Paris and at Oxford never took place in Italy; and the colleges never undertook the functions which properly belonged to the university. A good many colleges were founded at Bologna and in other southern universities; but residence in them was confined to their foundation-members; and they never exercised any special influence upon the life of the universities. One of these colleges—the College of Spain, founded by the will of the great Cardinal Albornoz (once Archbishop of Toledo and afterwards papal legate at Bologna)—still survives and is used as a place of education for members of the Spanish diplomatic service. It is curious to observe how the democratic spirit of Bologna made itself felt even in the government of the colleges. Here and in southern universities generally the rector of the college was elected by the students and that for a short period only.

In spite of their completely subordinate constitutional position, the doctors of Bolognese origin contrived to keep in their own hands the solid advantages of their rank. Even the domineering students of Bologna did not interfere with the exercise of the doctors’ inherent right to control the admission of candidates to doctoral degrees, i.e. to the membership of their own gild. And this right was practically restricted to an inner circle of doctors. The two Colleges of Doctors—one of the Canon, the other of the Civil Law—were reserved for Bologna citizens. The doctor’s degree—originally and still in name an admission to the gild of teachers—practically ceased to carry with it either the right to teach or the right of membership in the doctoral colleges and participation in the handsome fees demanded by them for graduation. With bachelors’ degrees, it may be remarked, neither the archdeacon nor the doctoral colleges had anything to do; they were conferred by the rectors. Not cdhtent with restricting the solid privileges of the doctorate to their own fellow-citizens, the grasping doctors of Bologna continued, to a great extent, to confine both the colleges and the more important chairs to members of their own families. This change took effect at about the middle of the thirteenth century. The experiment of a hereditary professoriate was hardly a success, and the fame of Bologna as a school of law rapidly declined from this time onwards and was supplanted by that of younger universities, such as Padua and Siena, largely founded by secessions of doctors or migrations of students from Bologna itself, where similar restrictions on the choice of the best professors were never reproduced.

So far we have confined our attention entirely to the Law universities. But Bologna was by no means a place of legal education only. The fame of its schools of the liberal arts, from which the Faculty of Law had originally differentiated itself, never entirely departed from it; and, in close connexion with the study of Arts, a medical school attained, at a somewhat later date, a fame rivalling that of Salerno and Montpellier. In spite of this fact, however, these schools long remained in a state of curious subservience to the masterful universities of Law. It was the universities of jurists who had taken the initiative in forming student-clubs and electing rectors. And at first these rectors claimed, and succeeded in asserting, a jurisdiction over all grades and kinds of students in Bologna down to the youngest grammarian, though none bid law-students were admitted to the jurist universities. The origin of the separate organisations for doctors and for students of these other subjects is obscure. Regular inceptions in Arts took place at Bologna at least in 1221, and in Medicine at about the middle of the century, when the famous Florentine physician Thaddeus was laying the foundation of its reputation as a school of Medicine. A college of doctors in Medicine and Arts and a university of students in these faculties probably existed at this time or soon afterwards, but it was not until the year 1306 that their rector succeeded in completely establishing his own independent jurisdiction and throwing off the yoke of the dominant jurists. Want of space compels us to pass over the contribution which the Italian Faculties of Medicine made to the earliest triumphs of science. It must suffice to remark that Galileo and most of the early Italian men of science were students of Medicine.

At Bologna and in Italy generally Aristotle and Philosophy were looked upon chiefly as preparation for the study of Medicine; Dante would hardly have acquired his profound knowledge of Aristotle and his medieval disciples had he not started life as a student of Medicine. Hence the close association of the two Faculties in the organisation of the university and the college. But, though the university extended its protection and its authority over students of Arts and even grammar­school boys, the medical students alone voted in the university Congregations. The College of Doctors included Doctors of Medicine ffnd full Doctors of all the Arts, but we hear at Bologna of a distinct graduation in several of the separate subjects embraced under Arts—Doctors of Philosophy, of Astronomy, of Logic, and of Grammar, and of salaried Doctors or Professors in all those subjects. Grammar and Rhetoric were taken much more seriously than in the North of Europe. As early as 1321 we hear of Antonio di Virgilio obtaining a large salary for lecturing upon Virgil, Statius, Lucan, and Ovid, and at about the same time a salaried Professor of Rhetoric lectured upon Cicero. Facts like these recall the striking remark of Ozanam that in Italy the period which intervened between the intellectual day-light of antiquity and the Renaissance was but: une de ces nuits lumineuses ou les dernieres claries du soir se prolongent jusqu’aux premieres blancheurs du matin.

In Italy the study of Theology was practically abandoned to .the Friars. There were organised studies of Theology of a university type in some of the Convents (Studia Generalia Ordinis). but if the friar-theologians wished to graduate, they had to go to Paris or Oxford for their degrees. It was part of the deliberate policy of the Holy See to keep up the monopoly of granting such degrees enjoyed by Paris, Oxford, and a very few other universities. But after the outbreak of the Schism, and the adhesion of France to the Avignon Papacy, the Roman Pontiffs desired rather to weaken than to strengthen the great school of the rival “obedience.” Consequently in 1352 a bull was issued by Innocent VI creating a Faculty of Theology at Bologna, and the example was freely imitated in universities which had hitherto been without such faculties, and in new universities founded after this date. But the change produced little effect in the Italian universities. They remained primarily universities of Law, secondarily of Medicine, while the Faculties of Arts and Grammar were treated as preparatory studies to some extent of the lawyers, but especially of the physicians. It was not by Theology but by Law that Rome ruled the Churches of the West; the study of Theology always contained in it the seeds of rebellion and reform. Secular culture rather than Theology or Philosophy was Italy’s contribution to the progress of the human mind.


The story, no longer taken seriously, about the foundation of Oxford by Alfred the Great is now known to rest upon a passage impudently forged and inserted into Camden’s printed edition of Asser Menevensis by no less a person than the illustrious Camden himself. Even of the city nothing is known till a century after Alfred. Nor is anything heard of any schools whatever at Oxford till the beginning of the twelfth century. The first Oxford teacher whose name has come down to us is one Theobaldus Stampensis (of Etampes in Normandy) who left Caen and came to teach in Oxford in about the year 1110. A short but violent attack upon the monks and five letters, in some of which he is styled doctor of Caen (Cadomensis), in others doctor of Oxford (Oxenefordensis), represent the whole literary remains of the first Oxford teacher. By a rare chance we know the approximate number of his students. In a reply to the improperium an anonymous monk remarks: “You are said to teach at Oxford as a master sixty or a hundred scholars, more or less.”

In or about the year 1133 a far more famous person, Robertus Pullus, has been said to have taught Theology in Oxford. Pullus was the author of one of the books of “Sentences” eventually superseded by Peter the Lombard, and afterwards became a Cardinal and Chancellor of the Roman Church. In 1149 Gervase of Canterbury tells us that the distinguished Italian jurist Vacarius taught the Civil Law in Oxford. It is certain that Vacarius was in England at this time, that he taught somewhere in England, and that at some time in the course of his life he taught at Oxford; it is not quite certain that the teaching at Oxford was as early as 1149. But, in any case, the names of three teachers at most—one at a time—represent absolutely all that we hear about the schools of Oxford till about the year 1170. So far there is nothing to differentiate the schools of Oxford from any of the more famous cathedral or other schools of about the same period. These Oxford schools clearly possessed some repute, but so did the schools of Lincoln, of Salisbury, and of Hereford. In about the year 1170 the allusions to the Oxford schools begin to multiply. We hear of famous persons who came from a distance to study here, of an extensive trade in books, of sermons specially addressed to scholars. In 1185 Giraldus Cambrensis tells us that he publicly read his newly-written Topographia Hibernica to a numerous body of masters and scholars in Oxford, “where clergy in England chiefly flourished and excelled in clerkship.” By this time, in fact, Oxford has become a Studium Generale; in 1190 it is expressly called a commune studium, which is a synonym for studium generale. By the year 1209 its students are set down by a contemporary historian at 3000.

What caused the sudden rise of Oxford into this position about a decade or so after 1170? Doubtless it might have been owing to the fame of a particular teacher (though at this time we hear of no such person) or to many other imaginable causes. But the development was very rapid; and the mere fact that, when it was complete, the schools are found to be under the government of no local ecclesiastic but of a Chancellor appointed in recent times, ad hoc, solely for the government of the scholars, suggests the probability that the Oxford Studium did not emerge into greatness by a gradual process of evolution, but owed its existence to a cause known in numerous other cases to have occasioned such a sudden development—that is to say, to a scholastic migration. And there is not a little positive evidence which supports that conjecture. In the year 1167 the exiled John of Salisbury speaks in one of his letters of a prophecy that in this year the votaries of Mercury (Mercuriales, i.e. scholars) should be “depressed,” and adds that in point of fact they were now “so depressed that France, the mildest and most civil of nations, has expelled her foreign scholars.” At about the same date or a little after we hear of an edict by Henry II—directed against the supporters of the exiled Becket in France—forbidding the “transfretation” of clerks, and calling upon all clerks already abroad who possessed “revenues” to return promptly “as they loved their revenues.” More definite still are the words of a contemporary in a letter: “The King wills that all scholars shall be compelled to cross the sea (transfretare) to return to England. Hundreds of English masters and scholars, it is probable, were studying in the schools of Paris. There is every reason to believe that many of them “loved” their revenues or benefices. And at all events the way to the continent was now closed for English scholars. Whether the “expulsion” alluded to by John of Salisbury is a rhetorical way of expressing this voluntary exodus, or whether the expulsion and the voluntary exodus are distinct events, both the “expulsion” and the edict of Henry II would equally conduce to the same result—the return of a great body of Parisian masters and scholars to England in or about 1167- 1168, a body which would necessarily grow owing to the impossibility of studying abroad. Nobody who knows anything of the habits of the medieval scholar will doubt that somewhere in England—at one place or in several—in some ancient and more or less famous place of study or in a new one, the Parisians would settle down and resume their interrupted studies, in the old way and under the old masters. In one or more of these places a Studium Generale would be de facto established by their presence. As a matter of fact we hear of nothing approaching such a Studium Generale anywhere in England at this time or for long afterwards, except at Oxford. At Oxford we do hear of a Studium Generale, and within a very few years of the presumed migration, while there is nothing to shew the existence of such a Studium before that date. It is probable, therefore, that the rapid emergence of Oxford into a Studium Generate may be set down as chiefly due to this Parisian migration.

In the Paris of 1170 we know of the bare existence of a society of masters, constituted by the fact of inception and existing chiefly for the conduct of these inceptions—a customary society without charter or privileges, common officers or common seal, legal recognition or written statutes. A similar society would be at once reproduced at Oxford—there is no reason for supposing that it existed before—by the immigrants. The language of Giraldus suggests some such organisation; at all events, he speaks of a plurality of masters—one of the notes of a Studium Generale. Nothing is known of the organisation of the Studium in the previous period. Theobaldus Stampensis may have taught under some sort of authority from St Frideswyde’s monastery; but there was no cathedral in Oxford, which then formed part of the enormous Lincoln diocese; and after St. Frideswyde’s church passed into the hands of the regular Canons—perhaps in 11520—there was no secular collegiate church whose chancellor or other scholastic official could claim to grant licences or exercise a jurisdiction over scholars. At this period it is possible that no regular licences were granted. After the migration, it may be that new masters incepted without a licence, or that the licences were granted by the masters themselves, or that the masters ventured oh electing an official to grant the licences. There are some traces of an official known as the Rector of the Schools before the year 1214. But, whatever may have been the case before, it is in that year that we hear for the first time of a chancellor. A riot in which two or three scholars were hanged by the townsmen occurred in 1209—during the interdict and the general persecution of clerks throughout the kingdom by King John. A “dispersion” followed: 3000 scholars are said to have abruptly left Oxford—some for Cambridge (this is the first we hear of schools at Cambridge), some for Reading. John’s submission to the Papacy at last made it necessary for the townsmen of Oxford also to make their peace with the ecclesiastical authorities. An ordinance issued by the papal legate in 1209 imposes a public penance—a bare-foot procession to the victims’ tombs—on the actual off enders, and an annual disbursement of forty-two shillings by the townsmen at large—for ever. It went on to provide that scholars arrested by the towns­men should be at once surrendered upon the demand of “the bishop or of the archdeacon or his official, or the chancellor, or whomsoever the Bishop of Lincoln shall depute to this office.” In a later clause this officer is spoken of as “the chancellor whom the Bishop of Lincoln shall set over the scholars therein.”

From this time onwards the Chancellor of Oxford became the undisputed head of the Oxford schools. His office was obviously an imitation of the Parisian Chancellor; but from the first he was in a totally different position from his prototype. He belonged to no hostile corporation; on the contrary, he represented the rights and independence of the scholars alike in their conflicts with the town and their relations to the bishop and other ecclesiastical authorities. He derived his authority from the bishop, but from the first he seems to have been elected—originally the election was biennial—by the masters from their own body. The necessity for confirmation by the bishop was done away with in 1368, and eventually the Chancellor shook himself free altogether from episcopal and even archiepiscopal authority. By successive bulls, charters, and privileges from Pope and King he acquired an extensive jurisdiction—civil, spiritual, criminal—not only over the scholars but over the burgesses of Oxford. But there was nothing in these privileges to awaken the jealousy or suspicion of the university; rather they were welcomed as so many weapons of offence and defence against the outside world. From the first the Chancellor was regarded as the head of the university as well as the bishop’s judge and representative. He conferred the licence, but he also presided over the University Congregations. He was, in fact, the Parisian Chancellor and the Parisian Rector in one—and a good deal more besides.

Every step in the evolution of the university constitution at Paris was imitated at Oxford; but at every turn the constitution of Oxford was modified by a difference of circumstances—especially the different position of the Chancellor. There are traces during the first half of the thirteenth century of four Nations and four Proctors at Oxford; but by about 1248 there were only two—a Northern and a Southern Nation; and in 1274 (after an unusually violent faction-fight between North and South) the university solemnly resolved that there should in future be no Nations at all. The national unity—earlier achieved in England than in any other European country—thus symbolised itself in the suppression of the separate Nations in its oldest university, though this by no means extinguished the faction-fights between North and South, or between the Welsh and Irish students, who belonged constitutionally to the South, and the Northern Nations which included the Scottish. There were still a Northern and a Southern Proctor, but there were no separate meetings of the Nations.

At Oxford there was no room for the growth of a single rector. At Paris the rectors were essentially the representatives of the masters—more, strictly, of the Regent Masters of Arts; but, just as the Parisian Rector grew into the head of the whole university, the Proctors became, almost from the first, the executive of the whole university. This position of theirs was connected—whether as cause or effect—with the fact that the superior faculties here possessed no Deans and very little separate organisation. It is very rarely that we find the separate faculties acting as independent bodies. There are, indeed, traces of “voting by Faculties” (the Non-Regents here counting as a separate section of the university); but this system disappeared by the fifteenth century. All through its history and down to the present day the distinctive character of the university—in ways more important than mere constitutional organisation —has been affected by the almost entire absence of distinct faculty organisation, especially in the superior faculties; and this almost canned with it the ascendancy of the predominant Faculty of Arts. In the Middle Ages this ascendancy was secured by a peculiar feature of the Oxford constitution—the existence of “previous” or “black” Congregation. This body was composed of the Regent Masters of Arts only; its meetings were held in the church of St. Mildred’s, and were presided over by the two Proctors. It claimed the right of previously considering and (if it pleased) vetoing a proposed statute, though eventually it was considered sufficient that the statute should be “promulgated” in the Black Congregation. There were thus at Oxford three distinct Congregations or Convocations: (1) the Black Congregation, (2) the Congregation of Regents of all Faculties, held first at St Mary’s, afterwards in the adjoining Convocation House, in which all the ordinary executive business of the university was transacted, and (3) the Great Congregation, held in St Mary’s Church, which was only assembled on solemn occasions, such as the making of permanent statutes. It is only in this assembly, so far as appears, that there was any “voting by Faculties.”

The colleges of Oxford were originally just what they were at Paris—boarding-houses for students, accommodating only their foundation­members and at most supplementing the teaching of the public schools by providing additional private tuition, especially for their younger members. The revolution by which the colleges to a large extent supplanted the university took place at Oxford later than at Paris. It is not till the dawn of the Renaissance period that we find college teaching keeping pace with the waning efficiency of the university Regents, and it is not till after the Reformation that the bulk of the university began to reside in the colleges, nor till a still later period that an oligarchy of Heads of Colleges practically to a large extent supplanted the medieval Congregations as the really supreme university authority.


The original universities had grown into Studia Generalia by a spontaneous process. Originally, their “licences” to teach were, from a legal or canonical point of view, worth no more than any other licences of the local ecclesiastical authority north of the Alps or of any other Italian college of doctors. The validity of the licence could not extend beyond the jurisdiction of the authority which conferred it. But, practically, the “licences” of certain Studia had acquired an ecumenical prestige; a master who had been licensed at Paris and gone through his inception there would be acknowledged as a master and allowed to teach anywhere in Europe. Such Studia were at first very few in number. The position of the four Studia which we have already mentioned was beyond dispute. The ancient medieval University of Montpellier was perhaps almost equally well recognised as a Studium Generale. A few others which had arisen by migration from one of the old schools might claim to be Studia Generalia with more or less success. One of the earliest of these was Cambridge, which originated (as has already been seen) in a migration from Oxford in 1209, and which almost exactly reproduced the Oxford constitution, and developed along parallel lines. Another was that of Padua, which owed its existence to a migration from Bologna in 1222. The earliest Spanish Universities, Palencia and Salamanca, which date from the beginning of the thirteenth century, were also perhaps regarded as “general” from the first. But even when the conception of the Studium Generale received an official recognition through the conferment upon the clergy of the right to be absent from their benefices for the purpose of studying in Studia Generalia, the question which Studia were general was still incapable of precise determination. The original notion of the Studium Generale was simply one which de facto attracted in large numbers students from all parts; to which was generally added the restriction that at least one of the superior faculties must be taught and studied there. At first, as we have seen, there was no necessary connexion between the idea of the Studium Generale and that of the Universitas. But in practice a certain organisation of the type or types which we have already examined grew up in all the Studia which were recognised as general, and rarely existed in an equally developed form in a Studium Particulare; hence a Studium could hardly be recognised as general which did not possess this organisation, so that practically the Studium Generale and the University of Masters or Scholars were formed into a single institution. This institution was emphatically one which in its earliest form grew and was not made. But about the middle of the thirteenth century both the two powers which could claim to confer privileges of ecumenical validity—the Pope and the Emperor—almost simultaneously, for purposes of their own, conceived the idea of giving by the fiat of authority to certain new institutions the privilege which the old had acquired by spontaneous evolution. The idea originated with the Emperor Frederick II, who established a Studium Generale at Naples in 1224 in order to withdraw students from Bologna and the other cities of Lombardy, against which he was on the point of declaring war. In 1230 the Pope erected a Studium Generale at Toulouse, as a manoeuvre in his campaign for the suppression of the Albigensian heresy; and shortly afterwards (1237) conferred upon those who had received its licence the right to teach anywhere “without any previous examination.” In 1244 or 1245 the same privilege was conferred upon the University of the Court of Rome, a migratory university which was to follow the Curia in its wanderings, and find employment for the idle ecclesiastics who flocked to it in quest of benefices. Other monarchs, cities, or prelates who wished to foster the growth of Studia within their jurisdictions now began to ask for and obtain similar bulls from Pope or Emperor; and before the close of the century it came to be an acknowledged principle of public law that no new Studium Generate could be set up without such a bull. In 1292 even the two most illustrious of the ancient Studia—Paris and Bologna—thought it well to procure similar bulls, and henceforth conferred their licences “apostolica auctoritate. But some of these Studia—such as Oxford—had been so fully recognised as “general by universal consent that it was impossible for legal theory to dispute their status. These were called Studia Generalia ex consuetudine. By the jurists of the fourteenth century it was definitely laid down that a Studium Generale was a Studium which by papal or imperial bull or by ancient custom—which practically meant a custom dating from at least the thirteenth century—enjoyed the right of conferring the ius docendi hic et ubique terrarum.

The merest sketch of the rapid multiplication of universities which now set in is all that is here possible. We have already noticed the foundation of Cambridge by the Oxford migration of 1209. It is not certain that it maintained its existence after the return, of the Oxford students in 1214. We hear little more about it till in 1229 it received a contingent of the Parisian scholars dispersed in that year in consequence of the great quarrel with the Friars. It claimed to be and was recognised as “general”—at least in England—from the first, though till quite the close of the Middle Ages it had no pretensions to the worldwide fame of Oxford. It is one of the few universities which succeeded in getting recognised as entitled to confer the licence in all the faculties, including Theology, without a papal bull; and yet there was so much doubt about its position that in 1318 it thought it well to obtain a bull from John XXII, which is worded exactly in the usual form of a foundation-bull for a new university, conferring the ius ubique docendi. The constitution of the university so nearly follows the Oxford model that in view of the necessary limits of this chapter its further growth must not be traced. Putting aside short-lived attempts of seceders from Oxford and Cambridge to establish new universities at Northampton, Salisbury, and Stamford, Oxford and Cambridge continued to be the only English universities till the foundation of Durham in 1837.


It is not surprising that Italy, with its powerful, almost independent cities and the acute rivalries between them, should have taken the lead in the multiplication of universities. Short-lived Studia Generalia were established by secessions from Bologna at Reggio before the end of the twelfth century, and at Vicenza in 1204. A similar law-school was established at Arezzo by a discontented Bolognese doctor in 1215, which (unlike all other North-Italian universities) was controlled by a magisterial university; but it did not outlive the middle of the thirteenth century, and imperial bulls in 1355 and 1456 failed to effect any permanent revival. The first migration from Bologna which gave rise to a permanent and famous university was the already mentioned migration to Padua in 1222, a university which, after the decline of the law-school of Bologna, began to rival, and ultimately to surpass, the fame of its parent university as a home both of legal and of medical studies. The origin of Naples (1224) has already been mentioned; it was governed despotically in a quite unique fashion by a royal Chancellor, and never played any considerable part in the intellectual life of the Middle Ages. A secession from Padua established itself at Vercelli in 1228, the city undertaking in a formal contract with the student-universities to provide no less than 500 empty houses for the immigrants; but it did not long maintain itself as a Studium Generale. A Studium, which called itself general, arose at Siena by migration from Bologna in 1246. This is the last attempt to establish a Studium Generale in Italy without a bull, and it is interesting as a limiting case. In 1275, when the Bologna immigrants had long since returned, the town council talked of reviving their Studium Generale; but in spite of later immigrations from Bologna, it never quite succeeded in getting recognition as general till it procured an imperial bull from Charles IV in 1357.

All later Italian universities were founded by bull, the initiation proceeding either from the city or the “tyrant” by whom it was governed. Piacenza got a bull for itself in 1248. After 1398 Gian Galeazzo Visconti attempted to make it a university of the Milanese, but the attempt was never very successful, and in 1414 was abandoned, and the university practically transferred to Pavia. The Studium at Rome (quite distinct from the Studium Curiae, established in 1245) was founded by Boniface VIII in 1303, Perugia in 1308, Treviso in 1318, Pisa in 1343, Florence in 1349, Pavia in 1361, Ferrara in 1391, Turin in 1405, and Catania in 1444. Thus by the close of the Middle Ages almost every considerable Italian State had acquired a university of its own. An attempt was often made to fill their schools by forbidding the subjects of the State to study elsewhere. In these circumstances the size, efficiency, and reputation of the Studium largely depended on the size and wealth of the State to which it ministered; but it is worthy of notice that universities prospered best in cities not of the largest size and where rents were lower—especially the conquered cities which were often systematically turned into university towns by their conquerors. Towards the close of the Middle Ages the most famous universities of Italy (apart from Bologna with its traditional prestige) were Padua, the university of the Venetian dominions; Pavia, the university of the Milanese; and Pisa, the university of the Florentine dominions, a separate university at Florence having ceased to exist in 1472. The constitution of the universities—with one or two exceptions—was closely modelled on that of Bologna, with the removal of one of the two anomalies due to its peculiar history, such as the double Rectorship in the jurist university. The Chancellor in the Italian universities, except at Bologna, was always the bishop.

The earliest university of Spain was the first university in Europe to be founded by a definite act of authority. The University of Palencia was founded in 1212-14 by King Alfonso VIII of Castile, who invited a certain number of masters—perhaps from Paris and Bologna—and offered them salaries to teach in Palencia. In 1220 his successor, Ferdinand III, obtained from Pope Honorius III permission to use for the payment of the masters a fourth part of that third of ecclesiastical property of the diocese which in Spain was applied to the.maintenance of the fabrics. Similar taxes on ecclesiastical property became in Spain the usual method of supporting universities. The Studiuin of Palencia came to an end about the year 1250; and, while it lasted, it would hardly have been regarded as more than what afterwards came to be called by the jurists a Studium Generate espectu regni. Before it closed its brief career the University of Salamanca was founded by Alfonso IX of Leon about the year 1220, but this university did not begin to flourish till the time of Alfonso X the Wise, who conferred upon it a regular charter in 1254, entrusting the right of promotion and an extensive jurisdiction over scholars to the Scholasticus of the cathedral. In 1255 Pope Alexander IV granted it many privileges, including the right of its graduates to teach anywhere except at Paris or Bologna. Apart from the power and importance of the Scholasticus, the university was organised rather on the Bolognese than on the Parisian model, with a Rector and Consiliarii elected by the students, though the doctors were not here excluded from the university congregation. The model there set up was followed by most of the Spanish universities. The Studium of Valladolid had come to be looked upon—at least in Spain—as a Studium Generale by about the middle of the thirteenth century, though it only obtained the ius ubique docendi from Pope Clement VI in 1346. The rival State of Aragon and Catalonia obtained its first university by the foundation of Lerida in 1300. It started with a charter from James II of Aragon and a bull from Pope Boniface VIII, and its statutes are known to be an exact copy of the early code of Bologna. The county of Roussillon—now annexed to Catalonia—obtained its university by the erection of Perpignan in 1349, not a successful attempt; while anew university for Aragon proper was set up at Huesca in 1359. A university was erected at Barcelona in 1450, chiefly owing to the efforts of the municipality. Saragossa (in Aragon), founded by a bull of Pope Sixtus IV in 1474, is the only instance of an undoubted Studium Generale in the Faculty of Arts alone. It is doubtful how far the University of Palma in Majorca can edaim any continuity with the school set up in that place by the eccentric Raymond Lull; as a regular university it owes its existence to a charter of Ferdinand the Catholic in 1483. Siguenza (in Castile), founded in 1489, was the first instance of a college endowed with the privileges of a university—a model frequently followed in Spain at a later date. An older Studium at Alcala in Castile became a Studium Generale in 1499, and a Studium long supported by the municipality at Valencia acquired a similar position from the Valencian Pope Alexander VI in 1500.

While the original division of Spain into many kingdoms naturally brought about the existence of many universities, the unity and independence of Portugal is proclaimed by the fact that throughout its history (if we except a later Jesuit university at Evora) it has had but one university—the university which was originally founded at Lisbon in 1290, and was transferred to Coimbra (in consequence of troubles with the citizens) in 1308-9. In two subsequent periods (1338-1355 and 1377-1537) the university was transferred back to Lisbon, but since 1537 it has remained at Coimbra.

In spite of the superlative reputation of medieval Paris, France possessed from an early period several universities of European reputation. The exclusion of the Civil Law from the studies of Paris left room for the growth of legal universities elsewhere, and Paris never obtained the highest reputation as a home of scientific Medicine. It is a curious fact—due partly to the prominence of Law and partly to the close connexion of southern France with Italy—that most of the French universities were modelled rather upon Bologna than upon Paris or exhibit a combination which may be described as a compromise between the two.

Montpellier as a place of medical study had become a formidable rival to Salerno before the middle of the eleventh century; it possessed a regular University of Medicine by 1220 under a Chancellor appointed by the bishop, and occupying a position very much like that of the Chancellor at Oxford, with two Proctors elected by the Masters, except that the licences were here conferred by the bishop himself. The university was at first purely magisterial, though the students acquired some small share in its government at a later date. Montpellier had also an ancient school of Law; and a regular jurist university, quite distinct from that of Medicine, came into existence about the year 1230. After much collision both with the bishop and the masters, the Law students succeeded by 1334 in acquiring the recognition of a modified student university. Orleans was from an early date famous as a Studium both of the Liberal Arts and of Law. It gradually grew up in the course of the thirteenth century, but its rights—against the bishop and the cathedral Scholasticus—were not fully recognised till it obtained a bull from Pope Clement V in 1306. It remained throughout the Middle Ages the most famous university of Law in France and one of the most famous in Europe. Angers was also an ancient cathedral school which gradually acquired the status of a Studium Generale, at about the time of the great migration from Paris in 1229. The foundation of Toulouse in 1230 has already been mentioned. Toulouse also was a famous Studium of Law. The other French and Burgundian universities were: Avignon (1303), Cahors (1332), Grenoble (1339), Orange (1365), Aix (1409), Dole (1422), Poitiers (1431), Caen (1437), Bordeaux (1441), Valence (1459), Nantes (1460), Bourges (1464).

The older French universities are interesting as being among the few which developed spontaneously without having the complete Parisian or Bolognese organisation transplanted to them by an act of authority or a sudden migration. Orleans and Angers emerged much more gradually than Paris from a state of tutelage to the bishop and his representatives, and the cathedral Scholasticus to the last retained more authority than the Parisian Chancellor, and the universities were much later in acquiring even a right to elect a Rector. The organisation of the students in Nations under Proctors of their own—ten at Orleans, six at Angers—was here of ancient and spontaneous growth, but they only succeeded, and that very gradually, in acquiring a modified share in the government of the universities in conjunction with the doctoral colleges. Most of the other French universities likewise exhibit a type of constitution mid-way between that of Paris and that of Bologna. A few universities of the Midi—such as Aix and Valence—approximate more closely to the Bologna model. Caen, which was deliberately instituted to take the place of Orleans during the English domination, alone reproduces the Paris constitution.

Of all the greater countries of Europe, Germany was the last to be seized with the desire to have universities of its own instead of sending its most advanced students to foreign schools like Paris and Bologna for education. The first German university (if it can be called German) was set up by the Emperor Charles IV in 1348 in Prague, the capital of his own hereditary kingdom of Bohemia. It was mainly on the model of Paris, though eventually (1372) the Law-students were allowed to set up a separate university of their own more or less on the Bologna model. A university was founded at Vienna in 1365 by Duke Rudolf IV. Erfurt was an important Studium of Arts from a very early period. It even set up a claim to be a Studium Generate ex consuetudine, but it did not succeed in making good its pretensions to full university rank till 1379 when, inspired no doubt by the desire to rival Prague and Vienna, it procured a bull from the Pope at Avignon, Clement VII. When once the example had been set, the ambition to possess a university in their own dominions rapidly spread through the princes and great cities of Germany. The University of Heidelberg dates from 1385, Cologne from 1388, Wurzburg from 1409. Leipsic owes its origin to a great quarrel between the German and the Czech students at Prague, which led to a great exodus of German students in 1409, of whom a large body came to Leipsic and established a university of their own. The remaining universities of medieval Germany are: Rostock (1419), Louvain (1425), Treves (1454), Greifswald (1455-6), Freiburg-im-Breisgau (1455-6), Basle (1459), Ingolstadt (1459, now transferred to Munich), Mayence (1476), Tubingen (1476-7).

The endowments of the German universities were largely provided by the annexation of prebends in cathedral or collegiate Churches to university chairs. In many cases, too, one or more colleges—especially for the Faculty of Arts—were erected at the same time as the university, the fellowships of which were from the first intended to supply maintenance for the university Regents. College and university were often, in fact, so closely connected as to form a single institution. Thus in Germany an endowed professoriate existed from the very foundation of its universities, and the colleges, as places of residence for students, could gradually disappear without the extinction of university teaching.

As regards the other countries of Europe it must suffice to mention that Poland acquired a university by the foundation of Cracow in 1364. In Hungary three universities were founded in medieval times—Pecs (Funfkirchen) (1367) which did not long survive, Buda (1389), and Pressburg (1465-7). The first Swedish university was Upsala, founded in 1477. The one Danish university—Copenhagen—dates from 1478. In Scotland three universities were erected in the course of the fifteenth century—St Andrews (1413), Glasgow (1450), and Aberdeen (1494). The Scotch universities were nominally modelled on Bologna rather than Paris or Oxford, and (though the rights of the students were practically very small) the annual election of a Lord Rector by the students of these universities represents the last relic in all Europe of the democratic student-universities which played so important a role in the academical system of southern Europe.


The influence of the universities upon the medieval world was exercised in three distinct ways. An adequate treatment of the subject would involve a discussion of three questions: (1) their influence as corporations having close relations both with Church and State but possessing considerable independence in relation to each; (2) the intrinsic value of the learning, knowledge, and thought of which they were the homes; (3) the value of the education which they imparted, and the effects of that education upon the world. A very few remarks are all that can be made within the limits of this chapter.

It was chiefly in the North of Europe that the universities as corporations exercised an important influence upon national and international politics. In Italy the individual doctors played a leading part in the public life of the city republic. At the Diet of Roncaglia in 1158, for instance, it was the famous “four Doctors” of Bologna who are named by Rahewin as giving the opinion regarding regalian rights upon which the Emperor Frederick I acted when he asserted his almost forgotten prerogative against the Lombard cities; and other doctors were prominent members of the aristocratic party in that city. But just because the Italian doctors were citizens, while the universities were composed of students only, the Italian universities could not well aspire to the kind of influence which the great corporations of learned ecclesiastics, especially the University of Paris, exercised in the North. At Paris the University became a great organ of public opinion at a time when public opinion had few such organs, which could and did make itself felt both in the domestic affairs of France and in the ecclesiastical politics of Europe. The Theology of the Western Church was largely shaped at Paris. In the celebrated question of the retardation of the heavenly vision Pope John XXII himself apologised to the University for expressing an opinion on a theological matter though he was not a doctor of Theology. The ecclesiastical law of Europe was moulded at Rome or at Bologna under Roman influence; in matters of pure Theology, Paris led the way and Rome followed.

To mention all the occasions on which the university figured in French politics would involve a long review of the history of France, especially during the confused faction-fights of the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. It must suffice to mention the most conspicuous occasion on which the university asserted the position sometimes claimed for it by medieval writers as the third of the great powers or “virtues” by which the European commonwealth of Nations was united and controlled— France’s equivalent for the Italian Papacy and the German Empire. It was chiefly through the activity of the university—in alliance with the Emperor and other secular princes—that the termination of the Great Schism was forced upon the rival claimants to the Papacy. For such a task its constitution was extraordinarily well adapted. Its semi-ecclesiastical character covered what was really an extreme measure of interference by the rival powers with religion: its cosmopolitan composition and the close intercourse which it kept up with other universities enabled it to form and to express a kind of European concert; while the secular, anti­monastic, anti-curialist Theology which had grown up in the schools supplied the speculative basis that was required for so startling a measure as the deposition of the Pope by a General Council. The Council of Constance (1415—1418) represents the fleeting triumph of Gallicanism in the Western Church at large. The university long continued to be the home of Gallican Theology, but it was never again able to impose that Theology upon the world with so much effect. The very success of the university in terminating the Schism strengthened the Papacy which it had to some extent purified, and the growing power of centralised monarchies restricted the influence of the great scholastic democracy. In France an age of Concordats succeeded to the age of Councils, and the universities everywhere had to limit such influences as they could still wield in secular and ecclesiastical politics to the internal affairs of their respective countries.

The nature and value of the scholastic Philosophy and Theology form the subject of other chapters, and must therefore be passed over here. But it is important to remark that the scholastic system, though the most characteristic, represents by no means the sole intellectual output of the medieval universities. The study of Law was the predominant study of all the southern universities; and it was at least as prominent as the more speculative branches of knowledge even in northern France and England. The most direct practical influence which the universities exercised over the world was perhaps the influence exercised through this study. The scientific development which the universities gave to the Canon Law was one of the great instruments by which the Papacy succeeded in dominating the Church, and by which the Church and its courts succeeded in dominating the world. And everywhere, except in England, the practitioners and the judges of the secular courts were trained in Roman Law at the universities. Wherever the Law was practised by such lawyers, the substance of the Law that they administered was sure in time to be more or less Romanised. Thus it was through the influence of the university faculties that Roman Law practically took the place of the Teutonic codes in the courts of Germany and largely modified the customary laws of those parts of France in which the loi ecrite, as such, did not prevail. English historians have dwelt strangely little upon the importance of the fact that in England—alone in all Europe—the lega practitioners were trained in separate schools of the national law. It was the early growth of the Inns of Court which reduced to a minimum the influence of Roman Law upon the substance, the procedure, and the tradition of English Law.

Our space will only allow one glance at the influence of the medical faculties. The actual Medicine and Surgery of Salerno and Montpellier and Bologna were less contemptible than the popular view of them is apt to suggest; and it is seldom remembered to how large an extent modern science had its birth in the medieval schools of Medicine and of Astrology, which was then closely connected with Medicine, owing to the supposed necessity for the physician to know the critical daysof his patient. It is curious to reflect that but for this superstition the medical student Galileo might have ended his days in a lucrative practice and never been diverted to the studies which revolutionised the thought of the world.

The efficiency of the education given by the medieval universities is not quite the same question as the intrinsic value of the learning which they imparted. Even if we adopt Macaulay’s characteristically philistine doctrine that in the Middle Ages the human mind ceased to advance but only marked time, marking time is at least a form of gymnastic. Looked at in that light, it may be questioned whether the intellectual exercise involved in the study of Aristotle, in familiarity with the technicalities of scholastic Logic and in the practice of scholastic disputation, was not at least as valuable a training for the intellectual work of practical life as the later education which consisted in intimate acquaintance with a very small number of Latin classics, a much slighter study of Greek, and unlimited practice in the art of writing Latin verse. For that large body of medieval students whose chief study was Law, the intellectual effects of their study must have been exactly the same as those of a purely legal education at the present day, with the addition of a very thorough acquaintance with the Latin language and an important branch of Latin literature. Except for the almost entire absence of any sense of history, in this as in all other departments of medieval thought, the medieval student studied the very subjects which form at least half of the occupation of a law-student in most European countries, nor was there any very marked difference in the methods of that study.

It would be quite beyond our present scope to insist upon the deficiencies of medieval science and philosophy, and the intellectual limitations which they involved in the persons brought up in them. It is more to the purpose to point out how largely the superiority of the educated man to the uneducated is independent of the subject-matter on which the education is based. The most direct influence’which the medieval universities exercised on the world was due to the fact that they put the direction of public and private affairs of all kinds very largely into the hands of highly educated men, “men who had devoted a considerable portion of their lives to severe and exacting mental labour.” They did not educate “the people,” though a far larger proportion of the population got an elementary, or something more than an elementary, education in the innumerable grammar schools by which the universities were fed. But a very large proportion of those by whom public affairs were directed—the ecclesiastics, the statesmen, the lawyers and othei’ professional men, the men of business who directed the households of great nobles—were for the most part university-trained students. It was chiefly through the universities that poor men of ability, or even younger sons of noble families, could rise to positions of power and influence. In the late Middle Age even princes and great nobles received their education in the universities. And on this side the influence of the universities increased as time went on. The most brilliant period in the history both of medieval Law and of medieval Scholasticism was over before the universities had become numerous; in some ways we may even say that the intellectual history of Europe—at least of northern Europe—from the middle of the thirteenth century to near the end of the fifteenth is a history of progressive decline; but the multiplication of universities went on diffusing the possibilities of education, and the proportion of educated men to the whole population was probably greater at the close of the Middle Ages than it had ever been before.

The actual number of students in the medieval universities has, indeed, been grossly exaggerated. Tradition—often very early tradition—speaks of 30,000 at Oxford and at more than one other university. But in nothing is the medieval chronicler so untrustworthy as in his numbers. Such documentary evidence as we possess as to the earliest universities make such stories quite incredible. But the very large numbers, often many hundreds, sometimes two thousand, of students revealed by the surviving matriculation-books of smaller universities in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries suggest that before the multiplication of Studia Generalia there may well have been some 4000 or 5000 students at Paris and some 2000 or 3000 at Oxford. When all allowances have been made for medieval exaggeration, it is probable that a larger proportion of the population received a university education at the close of the Middle Ages than is now the case in modern countries. Certainly that was the case as regards England. Doubtless these crowds of students included thousands whose proper place would have been at a secondary school, but it must be remembered that in those days men went to the universities later as well as earlier than now. High ecclesiastical dignitaries of mature years were found seated on the benches of the schools side by side with mere boys. When all allowances are made for the mixed motives which drew men to the universities, when we have allowed for the coarseness and brutality of the life that was lived in them, when we have admitted to the fullest extent the intellectual deficiencies of their most brilliant products, the very existence of the universities is evidence of a side of the Middle Ages to which scant justice has often been done—their enormous intellectual enthusiasm. The popular conception of the Middle Ages is far too favourable on the side of Religion and of Morality, far too grudging and unappreciative on the intellectual side. The universities represent one of the greatest achievements of the medieval mind, not only on account of the value of their intellectual products, but as pieces of institutional machinery. And the institution has outlived a very large part of the culture which it originally imparted, Through all the changes which have taken place in the subject-matter and the methods of the education regarded as the highest from the twelfth century down to the present time, that education has continued to be given through the machinery supplied by a distinctively medieval institution—an institution which still, even in the minute details of its organisation, continues to exhibit its continuity with its two great thirteenth-century prototypes, medieval Paris and medieval Bologna.