Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Town versus Gown

Thanks to riotous students, expansionist campus developers, and professors mowing their lawns at 11:30 on Tuesday mornings, relations between modern American universities and their host communities are rarely tranquil. Things have been worse in earlier days and other lands, of course. At the Historiann weblog, commenter Indyanna recalls an "early modern town-gown ruckus" in Oxford, England, in 1717, caused by George I's decision to garrison a regiment of soldiers in that town for the winter. "When the probably-mainly-Jacobite students refused to illuminate their windows to celebrate the King’s birthday, some tipsy soldiers smashed the windows in question. Next thing, the whole town was in arms and on fire. The House of Lords had to intervene to sort things out, the regiment got sent to Minorca, and its aging Colonel was packed off back to Dublin in retirement." Bad news for the colonel and the town, but perhaps not such bad consequences for the window-smashing soldiers - Minorca doesn't sound like a hardship post.