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My coming to Cambridge has been an unusual experience. From whatever country one comes as a student one cannot escape the influence of the Cambridge tradi- tions - and they go back so far ! Here, perhaps, more than anywhere else, I have felt at one and the same time the Past, the Present and even the Future. It"s easy to see and the old grey stone buildings how the past has moulded the pre- sent and how the present is giving shape to the future. So let me tell you a little of what this University town looks like and how it came to be here at all. The story of the University begins, so far as I know, in 1209 when several hundred students and scholars arrived in the little town of Cambridge after ha- ving walked 60 miles from Oxford. As was the custom then, they had joined them- selves into a "Universitas" of Society - the word "University", like the word "College", meant originally a society of people with a common employment ; it was only later it came to be associated with scholarship. These students were all churchmen and had been studying in Oxford at that ci- ty"s well-known schools. It was a hard life at Oxford for there was constant trouble between the townsfolk and the students. Then one day a student acciden- tally killed a man of the town. The Mayor arrested three other students, who were innocent, and by order of King John (who was quarrelling with the Church and knew that the death of three clergymen would annoy it) they were put to death by hanging. In protest, all the students moved elsewhere, some coming to Cambridge ; and so the new University began. Before long there were new quarrel with the townsfolk, for the University was anxious to be independent of the Town, and the Town was equally anxious for authority over the new student population. "Town" and "Gown" battles were fre- quent. The boarding-houses and shopkeepers cheated the students, who very soon orga- nized themselves under an elected leader called a Chancellor, and he fixed pri- ces that should be paid. Gradually the University gained control. Side by side with the fight for freedom from Town rule was another for liberty from Church rule, until by 1500 the University was its own master at last. Of course there were no Colleges in those early days and student life was very different from what it is now. Students were of all ages and came from every - where. Those from the same part of the country tended to group together and these groups called "Nations" still exist, by the way, at some European Univer- sities. The students were armed ; some even banded together to rob the people of the countryside. Gradually, the idea of the College developed and in 1284 Peterhouse the oldest College in Cambridge, was founded. Life in College was strict ; students were forbidden to play games, to sing (except sacred music), to hunt or fish or even to dance.
ref.by 2006—2022