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Sources and Reasons

Constitutionally, those ingredients are a pick-and-mix from pre-existing institutional forms.[1] And to reiterate, it is only their combination that risks incoherence and is novel. How did the whole differ from the sum of its parts?

There were parallels with the Nations in colleges’ self-government. But student guilds’ most pronounced (democratic) forms cannot be completely reconciled with more hierarchical colleges, even where ‘superiors’ were accountable to ‘inferiors’ as at Merton.[2] Ultimately, Nations’ principle interests were their own. That might have encouraged violence, but it did not make them institutional sociopaths. Nations still worried, as colleges did, about members’ scandalum and how to control it.[3]

In Nations the identity between members and institution was very close. Colleges had a rather more subtle dynamic given their endowed status and founders’ intentions. College members’ interests bisected temporarily and only to a degree with the enduring charitable impulse which gave the whole endeavour life and was intended to outlast any individual’s membership. That charitable impulse to endow a trust is most closely paralleled in hospital foundations. As noted, many college foundations have their roots in or alongside hospitals. Walter of Merton’s first charitable impulse produced St John’s Hospital, Basingstoke (where Peter of Abingdon had also been warden).[4] That hospital went on to offer elderly fellows a rest home until the early fifteenth century at least.207 A 1272 document calls the college itself a hospitalis.208 Alongside Canterbury and Winchester, Oxford had the most hospitals in England.209 The town’s association of chantries for the sick and chantries for the clever was not limited to Merton. Pairings of Oxford college and hospital included: Oriel and St Bartholemew’s, Cowley; Queen’s and St Julian’s (God’s House), Southampton; and later Magdalen with St John the Baptist.210 The connection was also early at Cambridge: Peterhouse budded off from a hospital, St John’s.211 The earliest collegiate foundation in Paris, the College des Dix-Huit was a room in the Hotel-Dieu next to Notre Dame.212 Their 1330 statutes still characterized them as the ‘Scholars of the House of God’.213 Paris in turn had about sixty hospitals for a population of over 200,000 by the mid-fourteenth century.214 Further comparison would be needed to test how far colleges and hospitals were fellow-travellers. Certainly the association was not only Northern European. Siena’s Casa della Sapienza arose out of early discussions to convert the hospital Casa della Misericordia (1388).215

Those hospital roots flowed out of monastic ones and into colleges: shared worship and prayers for a founder; communal eating accompanied by edifying reading; common dress. Writing about Cambridge’s charitable foundations, Miri Rubin has argued that given their communal, regular lives and commemorative functions, Cambridge’s colleges and hospitals shared striking similarities.216 Merton College had monastic and hospital roots—it was originally a trust for students held by the Augustinian Priory at Merton.217 Walter’s own priory education had quickly led to practical office there (as attorney and land agent).218 His foundation encouraged of the Ancient Town and Manor of Basingstoke (London, 1889), 44—5; Watson, ‘, Ordinatio and Statuta, 135—9.

  • 2°7 Martin and Highfield, History of Merton, 324 n. 257.
  • 8 Early Rolls of Merton, 69 n. 9.
  • 2°9 Michel Mollat, The Poor in the Middle Ages: An Essay in Social History, trans. A. Goldhammer (New Haven, Conn., 1986), 147.
  • 2!° Early Rolls of Merton, 50—1. See also Nicholas Orme, Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England (New Haven, Conn., 2006), 208—9.
  • 211 Mayr-Harting, ‘Foundation of Peterhouse’, 319, 326 n. 1, 334; Documents Relating to Cambridge, ii. 2—3; Rubin, Charity and Community, 271—6.
  • 212 CUP, i. Pars introductoria #50 (1180 acceptance by the Dean and Chapter of Paris of Josse of London’s endowment).
  • 213 E. Coyecque, ‘Notice sur l’ancien college des Dix-Huit’, Bulletin de la Societe de lHistoire de Paris et de Tile de France 14 (Paris, 1887), 176—86, statutes edn. 181—4 at 184.
  • 214 Mollat, Poor in the Middle Ages, 147; difficulties of estimation at 146, 173—7, 265—71. Histoire des hopitaux en France ed. Jean Imbert (Toulouse, 1982), 101, has a map of the nineteen main hospitals in central Paris.
  • 215 Peter Denley, Commune and Studio in Late Medieval and Renaissance Siena (Bologna, 2006), 299—305; the earliest examples are French-influenced Bolognese ones (Collegio Avignonese, 1256; Collegio Bresciano, 1326), 301.
  • 216 Rubin, Charity and Community, 182, 191. On Western medieval hospitals’ greater emphasis on spiritual and palliative care as contrasted with Islamic and Byzantine foundations’ medical emphasis, John Henderson, Peregrine Horden, and Alessandro Pastore (eds.), The Impact of Hospitals, 300—2000 (Berne, 2007), 21.
  • 217 Martin and Highfield, History of Merton, 5, 11—13. See 15 arguing the Surrey properties’ prayers were ‘the chief and essential function of the house, and their performance a guarantee that its contingent business would be duly and effectively performed’. Also Highfield, ‘Early Colleges’, 251.
  • 218 Early Rolls of Merton, 8—9.

sub tle and useful fellows in principle and practice. Nor were his links with the religious limited to monks. Although Kilwardby’s Register is lost, we can tell from his correspondence that the Dominican had cordial relations with Merton’s college.[5] Likewise, for Robert of Sorbon a key influence seems to have been the Franciscans, an unsurprising empathy for Louis IX’s chaplain.[6] Franciscans’ preoccupation with poverty and its value converged with—or surpassed—the colleges’ emphasis on poor scholars (however relative or partial).[7] Aside from being young and able to benefit from learning, indigence was the key quality that Pecham reminded Merton’s scholars to select members on. He did not stress (as he might) that they should be honest, chaste, peaceful, humble, fit for study.[8] (Given his views on the fellowship perhaps this was too much to ask.) Such influences are consistent with the twelfth- and thirteenth-century tendency for university institutions to monasticize themselves partially, if only to neutralize their monastic critics.[9]

There were differences though.[10] An important one has been touched on already. Fellows were not quite so coterminous with monks and/or hospital brethren as they might look to outsiders. College fellows were the recipients of charity. Were college fellows then really stewards or rather inmates and beneficiaries; and if the latter, what were they doing regulating the actual stewards, such as the bailiffs and warden of Merton? This seems at root to be Pecham’s problem. Nor were the values of collegiate founders and monks or friars completely consonant here. Douie suggested that, as a good Franciscan, one of the things irritating Pecham at Merton was its building programme.[11] Similarly a monastic disavowal of ‘acceptance of persons’ can hardly have been more flagrantly in conflict with collegial rules favouring founder’s kin.[12] So the affinities between religious orders and colleges are partial and partially contradictory. There was space for consensus about whether officers’ accountability to inferiors or peers was acceptable (as warden to fellows). It is a central argument of this chapter that whether such accountability was acceptable depended on what sort of community one saw a college as: natio, studium, hospitalis, ordo. Such accountability of officers to members was most customary for Nations; most problematic if the correct

comparanda for Merton’s fellows were a hospital’s inmates. As we have seen with the Franciscans, for religious orders the accountability of heads to brothers was acceptable, even if God was in the detail. By the mid-thirteenth century Benedictines too would be less able to criticize a quasi-monastic common life whose head was accountable to its members. Gregory IX had sought to provide precisely for more accountable abbots in his 1235—7 revisions to the Benedictine Rule.227 As a result the abbot was far more accountable internally and (in principle) his scope for unilateral action significantly limited—particularly regarding asset management, even if the tension between an accountable abbot and obedient monks beneath him remained.228

College founders were magpies, picking up bright fragments from a range of institutions to feather their own nests. In their new settings, some of those borrowings diverged from the purpose of their original setting. The above argument suggested that the new pattern risked incoherence. Yet it lasted. So something about it worked. What?

The argument has been that colleges were a striking institutional intermixture drawn from other contexts that also had various fault-lines or tensions running through them. So the reasons justifying these institutional cross-breeds must have been stronger than the strains on their joints. The last part of this chapter argues this. In particular it argues that the strain on colleges’ joints are mostly a consequence of their need to embody certain mutually reinforcing accountabilities.

The reasons that drive these specific accountabilities are a mixture of the simple and the relatively sophisticated. The principal driver relates fundamentally to founders’ needs. The others fall out of this: the control of violence and scandalum; the requirement for housing; and the complexity of charitable objectives.

Volo is the first word of the Sorbonne’s statutes.229 Ego is Merton’s after its divine invocation: ‘ego [. . .] do, assigno et concedo’.230 This was self-government at the founder’s command. Endowed colleges were designed to be vehicles of charity fulfilling their founder’s express purposes; the same is true of hospitals.231 Otherwise charitable energy would be misspent.232 So reliability must come first. That entailed writing down what [13] [14]

was wanted. By definition, for founders of colleges and hospitals, reliability means upholding charitable ambitions beyond masses and prayers for them and their families. ‘Caritas non querit quae sua sunt’, Paul told the Corinthians: so a philanthropist who pays only for his or her own salvation might only be an egotist.233 Whether those more altruistic intentions were broadly medicinal or broadly educational, the easiest way to ensure that a charitable bequest remained expressly devoted to these purposes was to stipulate it carefully. (Those foundations that served both hospital and educational functions and eventually split illustrates this).234 Reliability also meant endurance, so foundations needed to be as near to permanent as a founder could afford (hence the enormous volume of early conveyancing records for both the Sorbonne and Merton). From that, two things could be deduced. A permanent foundation implies a populated foundation. And a reliable, populated, permanent foundation implies a foundation enclosed in a specific place. The affinities between colleges, hospitals, and monasteries are at root a function of the need for founders to fix their charity on something they could count on. It is a reflection of how reliable colleges seemed to Louis IX in 1270 that they could compete with the friars in his will as objects of charity.235

For them to be worth relying on implied some control over the virtues of their members—a donor’s reputation would otherwise be ill reflected. The Nations’ concern with their reputation is mostly political. ‘Exceedingly dear to us is the good reputation of the scholars of our Nation, which ought to be put before all financial benefit’, said the German Nation at Bologna.236 Colleges’ attention to reputation was a consequence of the desire to well reflect founders’ charitable piety. (Hospital founders felt the same.237) Robert de Sorbon justified his various statutory provisions in relation to the scandal they prevented.238 Sir Philip Somerville’s statutes for Balliol specified homicide, adultery, theft, rape, perjury, sacrilege, and simony as the sort of ‘serious fault’ or ‘serious carnal failing or sign of depravity’ through which ‘a grave scandal in the said house could be sparked’.239 Walter of Merton made the public aspect of criminous clerks a clear reason for their expulsion.240 Pecham glossed it inimitably. If after warnings a fellow still transgressed a third time (a frequent collegial qualification), ‘he should be completely cut off from your 1849—85), i. [Autun, Laon, Montpellier, Albi], 132, Laon MS 183 ed. 592—649 at 634—41. Comment in A. J. Davis, ‘Preaching in Thirteenth-Century Hospitals’, Journal of Medieval History 36 (2010),

  • 72-89 at 74, 84-7.
  • 233 1 Cor. 13 : 5 . 234 e.g. Peterhouse, Cambridge, or the College des Dix-huit, Paris.
  • 235 CUP, i. #430a (February 1270).
  • 236 Statuta Nationis Germanicae Bononiae, cap. 29, 120.
  • 237 Watson, Fundatio, Ordinatio and Statuta, 25, 28, 274-5.
  • 238 e.g. Glorieux, Origines de la Sorbonne, i. #1 at 194 (students to be quiet while eating in rooms lest those passing by in the street be scandalized), 195 (no student to have extravagant shoes or clothes by which any scandal could be generated; students not to lecture prematurely with scandalous effects). Cf. the similar concerns about resolving problems discreetly and internally at the College des Dix-Huit, Coyecque, ‘Notice sur l’ancien college des Dix-Huit’, 1330 statutes, caps. 11-14 at 182.
  • 239 Oxford Deeds of Balliol, #571 at 292-3 (scandalum caused by fellows), 294 (public turpitude of chaplain).
  • 240 Merton Muniments, #6 at 22 ll. 30-1 (1274). The same concern in #2 at 15 ll. 12-13 (1264). One of the reasons to think that Kilwardby was less critical than Pecham of Merton during his visitation is that he does not use the language of scandal or infamy; his modifications are instead often utile—often as a pairing with honestas: Injunctions of Archbishop Kilwardby, 11, 13, 14.

company, like a putrid limb’.[15] In such matters it was better to be safe than fair. At Queen’s Oxford, unless a scholar was able to purge himself of ‘the rumour (fama) or rather infamy (infamia) levelled against him he would be taken as guilty whether the crime was great or small.[16] Concern for external reputation naturally informed colleges’ overwhelming desire to resolve disputes internally.[17] When we can test this, as at Merton in 1338—9, the scholars look less concerned with others’ perceptions and more upset or irritated themselves. They are bothered about discordia or dissentio rather than scandalum. At several 1338 scrutinies a recurrent sorrow around the table was that ‘there is not the love between fellows that there ought to be’.[18] At Merton in so far as they appear concerned about public appearances it is more a matter of the proper relations between fellows internally. ‘Wylie went far too far against Finmere in front of all the fellows publicly.’[19] By contrast Pecham, the external visitor, seems galvanized to protect the college’s wider reputation.

There is no explicit sign that Walter of Merton envisaged his foundation would improve the violent tenor of life at Oxford. But sensitivity to corporate reputation meant colleges were more likely to overcome that professional hazard of medieval university life. Walter’s correspondence does in fact show a concern and an awareness of order and disorder in Oxford.[20]

That colleges made some (minor) contribution to the control of extreme student behaviour (overall) may be deduced from the substitutes university authorities made in the absence of colleges. Nations could be one mediate form of control on students.[21] But often, in Paris, the university was forced to issue general regulations with the mass of individual masters as their target, the legislative equivalent of shooting a swarm of mosquitos.[22] As lords for servants, so masters were individually liable for their students and students were invidually accountable to him, notably for fees.[23] It is possible to see the role that housing could play in the regulation of behaviour through a source such as the 1329/30 Paris computus

roll . [24] In Paris, housing was regulated by the university and run through the masters, hiring accommodation out for their students.[25] In 1328 the university needed to pay for the costs of legal appeal to the Pope concerning a student, Jean le Fourbeur, fined for the rape of a woman, Symonette.[26] An indirect product of this legal appeal was a summarized list of all the students liable to pay their contribution to its costs. What is interesting here is that the collectors travelled around area by area, house by house, listing the masters or institutions and the numbers of liable students: a pattern that can be read off the sequence and descriptions the collectors made.[27] Provision of housing was the most basic element in regulating the behaviour of students.[28] By extension, putting their students in one place was a collegial founder’s first step in creating an accountable college.

The final reason for the construction of collegial corporate bodies as described was founders’ needs to separate the charitable wood from the trees. This has been alluded to several times, so a brief summary can conclude this chapter.

  • [1] Contiguously, the fact that Merton as a foundation bears parallels with Islamic awqaf seemsmore a testament to humans’ ability independently to produce similar objects that meet similar needs—rather than an argument for Islamic influence. For the Islamic influence argument seeMonica M. Gaudiosi, ‘The Influence of the Islamic Law of Waqf on the Development of the Trust inEngland: The Case of Merton College’, University of Pennsylvania Law Review 136 (1988), 1231—61.See further pp. 241—6.
  • [2] Kibre, Nations in the Medieval Universities, 43 (Germans at Bologna), 70—5 (Nations atParis). For Bolognese students’ control over teachers see Cobban, ‘Medieval Student Power’, 35—43esp. 39—43. Parisian Nations were different again, only feeding into the Arts faculty and governedby its Masters. ‘The nation was a masters’ institution run by and for those who taught. As such itreflected the concerns of magisterial life’: Gordon Leff, Paris and Oxford Universities in the Thirteenthand Fourteenth Centuries: An Institutional and Intellectual History (New York, 1968), 51—60 at 60.Cobban’s hypothesis that collegial universities defused ‘student power’ would require separate consideration; ‘Medieval Student Power’, 64.
  • [3] See e.g. Statuta Nationis Germanicae Bononiae, 114 (cap. 23), 120—1 (cap. 29).
  • [4] Martin and Highfield, History of Merton, 4; Early Rolls of Merton, 21—2; CCR 1257—1300, 44;Merton College Record, #1731, trans. in Francis Joseph Baigent and James Elwin Millard, A History
  • [5] TNA SC 1/18/173 (1277-8) to Edward I; SC 1/10/72 (1277-8) to John of Kirkby.
  • [6] Nicole Beriou, ‘Robert de Sorbon, maitre en theologie, 1201-1274’, in Marcel Viller et al.(eds.), Dictionnaire de spiritualite ascetique et mystique: doctrine et histoire, 17 vols. (Paris, 1937-95)xiii. cols. 816-24 at 817, 823; but cf. Gorochov, ‘Notion de pauvrete’, 126-8.
  • [7] Cobban, Medieval English Universities, 304-5 analyses some of the earliest available data fromNew College Oxford c.1380-c.1500. Of poor scholars, 61.4% were children of rural smallholders, 0. 1% children of urban labourers or serfs.
  • [8] Cf. Reg. Peckham, iii. #589 at 816, ‘quia solos debetis recipere indigentes’, and the 1274 rule inMerton Muniments, #6 at 22 l. 26.
  • [9] 223 See e.g. Highfield, ‘Early Colleges’, 251-2; Wei, Intellectual Culture in Medieval Paris, 72-8,85-6, 99-100, 122; Stephen C. Ferruolo, The Origins of the University: The Schools of Paris and TheirCritics, 1100—1215 (Stanford, Calif., 1985); Ferruolo, ‘The Paris Statutes of 1215 Reconsidered’,History of Universities 5 (1985), 1-14.
  • [10] See Verger, ‘Fonder un college au XIIIe siecle’, 31-2; Tuilier, Histoire de lUniversite de Paris, 1. 121.
  • [11] Douie, Archbishop Pecham, 275. For relevant remarks within a Dominican context see JoannaCannon, Religious Poverty, Visual Riches: Art in the Dominican Churches of Central Italy in the Thirteenthand Fourteenth Centuries (New Haven, Conn., 2013), 18-21, 339^0.
  • [12] Well stressed by Mayr-Harting, ‘Foundation of Peterhouse’, 326, 330.
  • [13] 7 Registrum Gregorii IX, ii. #3045. There are two recensions in the Register, from 1235 (‘a’)and 1237 (‘b’), the latter confirmed in 1253 by Innocent IV, with a mixed text in Matthew Paris’sAdditamenta (Chronica majora, vi. 235^7). See e.g. Registrum Gregorii IX, ii. #3045, caps. 26—9,31, 34, 47, 51; also Documents Illustrating the Activities of the General and Provincial Chapters of theEnglish Black Monks, 1215—1540, ed. W. A. Pantin, CS 3rd ser. 45, 47, 54, 3 vols. (1931—7), i. #13at 45 (14 October 1249, General Chapter, Canterbury Province), #34 at 110—11 (1279 ‘scheme’ forinterpreting the Rule). 228 David Knowles, The Religious Orders in England, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 1948—59), i. 270—1. 229 Glorieux, Origines de la Sorbonne, i. #1 at 193. 230 Merton Muniments, #2 at 15 ll. 1—3 (1264); in 1274, a confirmation and extension, it is ‘ego[. . .] approbo, stabilio et confirmo’, #6 at 21 ll. 1^.
  • [14] 1 Stressed by Watson, Fundatio, Ordinatio and Statuta, ch. 2, 77, 98—110, and suggesting (299)that constitutional hospitales provided a model for later medieval monastic patrons eager to holdtheir foundations ‘accountable’. See also Astrik L. Gabriel, ‘Motivation of the Founders of MedievalColleges’, Garlandia: Studies in the History of the Medieval University (Notre Dame, Ind., 1969), 211—23 at 212; Rashdall, Universities of Europe, i. 498—500, esp. 500 n. 1. 232 See e.g. a thirteenth-century French Summa pastoralis including instructions for archdeaconsevaluating the administration of almshouses in relation to their charitable purpose and edited by FelixRavaisson, Catalogue general des manuscrits des bibliotheques publiques des departements, 7 vols. (Paris,
  • [15] Reg. Peckham, iii. #589 at 817—18 on Merton Muniments, #6 at 22—3 ll. 33—5 (1274).
  • [16] Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford, i. Queens, 20 (1340); Munimenta Academica, i. 59, 60(University College 1292 and need for discreet co-disciplining and decorous conduct). Similar concerns in Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford, i. Oriel, 9 (May 1326). Oriel College Records, #4 has theJanuary 1326 statutes. For concern about reputation and scandal see e.g. also Historia universitatisParisiensis, ed. C. Egasse du Boulay, 6 vols. (Paris 1665—73), iv. 158 cap. 48 (Harcourt); Marti, SpanishCollege, 324—6; Statuta Nationis Germanicae Bononiae, caps. 23, 29, 114—15, 120—1.
  • [17] E.g. Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford, i. Oriel, 14 (1329); Origines de la Sorbonne, i. #41 at 230(1357); see above for Merton.
  • [18] Merton Muniments, #13, all at 33: Bernard (fo. 1 ll. 37—8); Hotham (fo. 1 ll. 43—4); Heriard(fo. 1v l. 70); Doyly (fo. 1v l. 77). At Exeter/Stapeldon Hall, dissensiones are ideally resolved internally: Charles William Boase, Register of the Rectors and Fellows, Scholars, Exhibitioners and Bible Clerksof Exeter College, Oxford with Illustrative Documents and a History of the College, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1879),i. xl (Stapeldons 1322 answer to a question about this).
  • [19] Merton Muniments, #15 at 35 ll. 243—4.
  • [20] TNA SC 1/22/56 (c.25 January 1274) Thomas de Cantilupe to Robert Burnel, Merton and others;SC 1/28/139 (c.February 1274) the mayor, bailiffs, and commonalty of Oxford to Walter of Merton.
  • [21] e.g. Honorius Ill’s suspension of the seals to forestall violence according to Nations, CUP,i. #45 (May 1222).
  • [22] 248 e.g. CUP, ii. #561 (October 1289 obligations of masters to have records ofstudents). Commenton Oxford, Highfield, ‘Early Colleges’, 225.
  • [23] Baldwin, Masters, Princes, i. 128—9, 175.
  • [24] Comment and edn. in Courtenay, Parisian Scholars.
  • [25] Baldwin, Masters, Princes, i. 130.
  • [26] Following Courtenay’s account, Parisian Scholars, ch. 3.
  • [27] Courtenay, Parisian Scholars, Apps. 1—2. A similar approach was used in 1284—5 (30—8).
  • [28] A side-effect of university requirements to allocate students to masters was to stamp out wandering scholars. See Cobban, ‘Medieval Student Power’, 31 n. 12.
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