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Glimpses of Europe

Back in the 1400s

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 20 May 2014 | Views [607]

Oxford, 1400s: there weren't books nor pens, not even for the highborn men who had the chance to go to university. This meant attendance was everything and so were the professors' remarks in every lecture. Even the wealthiest with the highest status who could afford Oxford, had to sit through hours of lectures for semesters and remember everything without the help of any written materials, since note taking hadn't been possible.

Books in libraries were then as big as a medium-sized suitcase and each of them was chained to a desk. Opening the massive covers required two hands.

The exam, was a minimum of 3 hours and a maximum of 3 days. It was set like a court room. You would stand on one side, facing your professor at the other side of the room. In the middle, sat the audience including the school's chancellor, your parents, your classmates, and the people from whom you borrowed funds for to attend classes. In other words, a room full of people who you would disappoint if you didn't pass this grilling.

On the ceilings, are engravings of crests, symbols, logos, of people and their companies, alumni of Oxford, who succeeded. The students' inspirations were, literally, up there for them to look up to anytime.

Meanwhile, in the nearby Bodleian Library, one of UK's oldest, still housed wood-covered books chained to shelves for they're so precious. A library with interesting stories, one of which is being Hogwarts' library.

 

When Edward VI, son of Henry VIII, ruled in the 16th century, he decided that England should adopt Protestantism. He burned every book, however expensive, if it promoted Catholic doctrines. So the Bodleian library, then known as Duke Humphrey's library, was robbed of its books. 

Many years later, one of Oxford University's students, Thomas Bodley, was thrilled by the idea of books. He made his way to the library but was left in shock and disappointment when he saw it empty, with holes in the ceilings as rainwater seeped through. How can a library have no books? He wondered. He grew into an ambassador and the Queen's spy. He made it alive through his duties and came back to England, wrote a letter to the school's Vice Chancellor offering to refurbish the library and restore its collection of books in the late 16th century.

He spent a lot of money, probably all of it, to fill the library now named after him. He donated so many books that they build an extension and a tunnel so long it connects three buildings from underneath for extra space. Even that, they're still struggling to store all the books.

Oxford itself, is beautiful. The student's union, like its neighbouring colleges, was a beautiful environment to study in. Every college was gated, had its own gardener, and was welcoming. Upon leaving, a friend of mine complimented the gardener for his marvellous work. Indeed, it was nothing short of mesmerizing.

Picture yourself in your desk, or in the library cubicle that I am accustomed to. Now imagine sitting down on a wooden bench outside a complex of historically rich buildings, in perfect weather, wind rustling the leaves, sun shining through the vines, your foot touching the spring grass, and your sight pleased with tulips and lilacs and daisies...  Knowing that's what life in Oxford is like, how can you not aspire to study there?

Tags: europe, oxford, uk, university

 

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