Readings in the History of Education

Arthur O. Norton
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Title: Readings in the History of Education Mediaeval Universities
Author: Arthur O. Norton
Release Date: February 9, 2005 [EBook #15005]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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Assistant Professor of the History and Art of Teaching in Harvard

These readings in the history of mediaeval universities are the first
installment of a series, which I have planned with the view of
illustrating, mainly from the sources, the history of modern education
in Europe and America. They are intended for use after the manner of
the source books or collections of documents which have so vastly
improved the teaching of general history in recent years. No argument
is needed as to the importance of such a collection for effective
teaching of the history of education; but I would urge that the subject
requires in a peculiar degree rich and full illustration from the sources.
The life of school, college, or university is varied, vivid, even dramatic,
while we live it; but, once it has passed, it becomes thinner and more
spectral than almost any other historical fact. Its original records are, in
all conscience, thin enough; the situation is still worse when they are
worked over at third or fourth hand, flattened out; smoothed down, and
desiccated in the pages of a modern history of education. Such histories
are of course necessary to effective teaching of the subject; but the
records alone can clothe the dry bones of fact with flesh and blood.
Only by turning back to them do we gain a sense of personal intimacy
with the past; only thus can we realize that schools and universities of
other days were not less real than those of to-day, teachers and students
of other generations not less vividly alive than we, academic questions
not less unsettled or less eagerly debated. To gain this sense of concrete,

living reality in the history of education is one of the most important
steps toward understanding the subject.
In selecting and arranging the records here presented I have had in
mind chiefly the needs of students who are taking the usual
introductory courses in the subject. Students of general history--a
subject in which more and more account is taken of culture in the broad
sense of the term--may also find them useful.
Within the necessarily limited space I have chosen to illustrate in some
detail a few aspects of the history of mediaeval universities rather than
to deal briefly with a large number of topics. Many important matters,
not here touched upon, are reserved for future treatment. Some
documents pertinent to the topics here discussed are not reproduced
because they are easily accessible elsewhere; these are mentioned in the
bibliographical note at the close of the volume.
In writing the descriptive and explanatory text I have attempted only to
indicate the general significance of the translations, and to supply
information not easily obtained, or not clearly given in the references or
text-books which, it is assumed, the student will read in connection
with this work. It would be possible to write a commentary of
genuinely mediaeval proportions on the selections here given;
doubtless many of the details would be clearer for such a commentary.
Some of these are explained by cross-references in the body of the text;
in the main, however, I have preferred to let the documents stand for
their face value to the average reader.
I have given especial attention to university studies (pp. 37-80) and
university exercises (pp. 107-134) because these important subjects are
unusually difficult for most students, and because surprisingly few
illustrations of them from the sources have been heretofore easily
accessible in English. In particular, there has not been, I believe, a
previous translation of any considerable passage from the much
discussed and much criticised mediaeval commentaries on university
text-books. The selection here given (pp. 59-75) is not intended for
continuous reading; but it will fully repay close and repeated
examination. Not infrequently single sentences of this commentary are

the outcroppings of whole volumes of mediaeval thought and
controversy; indeed anyone who follows to the end each
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