The Universities of Northern Germany in Late Middle Ages

The Universities of Northern Germany in Late Middle Ages

1. Introduction: Features of medieval German universities
When they hear the word "Medieval University", most people will be reminded of Twelfth Century Renaissance or some oldest universities (as Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Cambridge etc.), but little of the regions as Northern- and Eastern Europe. These areas began to obtain its own university only after fourteenth century, and most of them are associated with negative images: Decline and Fall of academic freedom and autonomy. This image comes partly from situation of universities in Early Modern onwards. In that period, many universities increasingly entered into more connection to their lords, kings and governments, and it is easily resulted in its subjective position both politically and economically. Since the history of German universities started from later Middle Ages and their features surely show indication of further period, these universities are often noted separately from other “free and independent” medieval universities.

Naturally scholars have been trying to change this stereotype. Especially in Germany, where the studies about university's history have a tradition, R. C. Schwinges has suggested idea such as "Transformation and Innovation" . First of all, it is irrelevant to assume somewhat ideal type of the academic institution, or to make a judgement historical situation itself.

Nevertheless, it is incommodious that even now we do not have somewhat newer standard for whole German medieval universities yet. This is partly because in Germany most of the studies have paid more attention to the individual university than broad tendency. More, because of regional multiplicity, it is difficult to generalize the universities in Holy Roman Empire. This problem has been approached mainly by two methodologies: social-historical analyze and institutional one. The former, R. C. Schwinges had already demonstrated the tendency for the enrollment of each university in 1986 . But more close statistical data (as origins and migrations of teachers and students) was not summarized or compared yet. The latter, the institutional historians as Peter Moraw tried to grasp German universities with broad span and took notice of the appearance of the learned men in the palaces of princes . Though these approach make it easy to explain the trend of the times from rise of learned caste to evolution of bureaucracy, focus of the study tend to concentrate on southern regions: "advanced" area in the empire. Whereby the transition in northern area is hardly counted.

On that condition, here I look into medieval university from counter direction: from the view of northern, hanseatic civil society. I took up the case of Northern Germany before Reformation, at first by comparison of two universities: Rostock and Greifswald. The former was middle-size, and the latter was one of the smallest universities in Holy Roman Empire, thus both of them have been hardly considered in a larger scheme. By taking notice of these "minor" universities, we can attain substantive comprehension and broaden our recognition about various forms of universities. Because most of the university was not as prosperous as Bologna or Paris - these "majors" were true ideal, but not typical. The aim of this article is to describe these universities applying two methodologies (both institutional and social-historical), and lay the groundwork for further study.

2. The foundation and development of university in Northern Germany
The city Rostock(1419) and Greifswald(1456) have obtained their university in fifteenth century. As we know, the cities belonging to Hanseatic League had great distance from palace -the center of imperial politics. For each university, the more important patrons were local powers: city council, lord duke and the bishops. In each case, city council and dukes cooperate to obtain Pope's privilege for university. But there were remarkable difference in the features of these two universities.

At first, I want to explain general status from the time of foundation to early sixteenth century: how had the surroundings changed. This "surroundings" means mainly the political background of each region. By asking which local powers affected university, we will be able to understand the position and role of the university. Apparently Rostock university had closer relationship to council than dukes of Mecklenburg. Already at the time of foundation in 1419, dukes of Mecklenburg did not participate in the opening ceremony for university. And both in Rostock and Greifswald, it was city governments from which the universities received the largest financial support continuously. But this situation had changed from middle of the century onwards. Unfortunate for the academy, the relationship between Rostock's city government and its lord princes of Mecklenburg was sometimes troubled. As a result of conflicts between both local powers, the university had to make exile to other cities twice in fifteenth century to Greifswald, Wismar and Lübeck. Particularly the second migration in 1487-1488 was caused by the civil conflict (Rostocker Domfehde, 1484-1492), which issued directly from duke's attempt to gain his influence on the university by providing teachers with the prebends of a church in the town .

On the other hand, also in Greifswald, the lord dukes of Pomerania began to show interest in the university in late fifteenth century . However, there were no confliction between city government and the princes. Duke of Pomerania arbitrated a quarrel in the university, nominated "University Reformers" and invited Italian jurist Peter of Ravenna for promotion of the university. In these processes, neither university nor city council made an objection to the duke's policy openly. Why this difference had arisen? Now I take notice of the position of both cities. Rostock was "quasi-free" city with their great autonomy which was supported by economic and political potential. But it became problematic when their lords tried to enhance their power at territorial policy. While in Greifswald, the trade scale of the town had been declining since fourteenth century and their population is calculated about 5000, almost 1/4 to 1/5 that of Rostock.

The city Greifswald was legally one of the patrimonial properties of Pomeranian dukes. This pro-duke policy of Greifswald is notably set off when it compared to Stralsund, the strongest hanseatic city in the duchy. Stralsund sometimes had friction with their lord dukes, but its upper class families correspond to that of Greifswald very closely, or even the same. I guess that the "Patrizier" of Greifswald could enjoy their political liberty and pursue their own interest in Stralsund if they want it. On the other hand, the town Greifswald itself never conflicted with their lords in public, and was establishing their role as the university-town.

In this section, I showed the circumstances of two universities and the position of their towns, and how political background affected university. So the next subject is to take a closer look at the condition of university from the view of social history: how was the actual function of university itself?

3. Greifswald: The function and condition of small university
To study above question, I pick up the case of Greifswald. The reason of this is primarily comes from abundant source of this university. We can refer not only the college register(Matrikel) , but also "the book of Deans", to which every deans(Decanus) of arts-faculty(elected twice in an academic year) recorded reception to the faculty(guild of teachers) and its committee, commencement, fiscal memorandum and sometimes unusual event in the university or in the town . Primarily from this book, the position of this university is explored: position to the town and to the other universities.

There were some merits of maintaining university in the town. At first, to get an university into burg would bring prestige and this factor motivated lay princes also. Secondary, it was attractive for the cities to derive economic benefit from university (For example, the Italian city Vercelli invited the university from Padua temporarily from 1228, expecting for economic benefit). Though it was hardly counted at that time, the universities gradually raised educational standards of citizens and their neighbors.

As early as the beginning of thirteenth century, the city Lubeck employed jurist from Italia, and several hanseatic cities had elementary- or secondary school for burgesses. In fifteenth century, some elite-class sons enrolled themselves in university and got the degree of law. After homecoming, they became consuls or mayors and played active roles as delegate or ambassador in the field of diplomacy (as Heinrich Murmester of Hamburg, Heinrich Rubenow of Greifswald, Sabel Siegfried of Stralsund) . In seventeenth century, we can easily see that every mayor got the degree "doctor iuris utrisque"(Doctor of laws), but this process advanced very slowly.

In Greifswald, the number of city council member who conferred a degree began to increase since the first reception of the university from Rostock 1436. Then it got ahead of Lübeck and Brunswick (Braunschweig) . We can even find some "scholar family" in second half of fifteenth century, and other families also increasingly had connections with scholars by marriage . With these processes, university took root in the upper class of the town. But there were no social background for regular or large employment opportunity, notary system as in Italia. At that time, later Middle Ages, the profit expected in the short term was to retain learned jurists. In other words, most "practical" function of the university was not systematic training for bureaucratic personnel, but casual provision of professional jurists to some specialized area (external affairs to secretariat). Considering that the recruitment of the learned person was late also in palace of duke as Mecklenburg and Pomerania , relationship between universities and their patrons was still alienating: thus the university retained their liberty as self-government association.

In the next place, position of Greifswald in the view of universities itself is summarized. Throughout Middle Ages, the university of Greifswald had been almost the smallest academy in Holy Roman Empire from its foundation. After a matriculation, most of the students moved to other universities further: to Rostock, to Erfurt and to Padua. Particularly this tendency is observed for richer students. From this phenomenon, Matthias Asche called the university of Greifswald as "Durchgangsuniversität"(transit university) for Scandinavian students . But this fact did not mean rigidity of this institution. It can be said that there was no monopoly in decision-making body of teachers, and the openness of the body was preserved at least in the biggest group: faculty of arts. In this faculty and at the position of dean, we can find many teachers who came from other countries or got the degree at other universities.

The most of universities at that time were weak-bases organization and often fell into crisis of dissolution or dormant state. Because of it, regular financial assistance was indispensable for them, and especially civilians made their roles in above two universities. In South, patrons gained their influence on personnel assignment of universities by means of those aids. However, as in the case of Greifswald, "small and dependant" university in Later Middle Ages was not necessarily integrated into administrative body or some bureaucratic system. The appearance of somewhat systematic education course for specific professional occupations was not constructed yet.

4. Conclusions
Finally, results of this article are summarized as below:
-From institutional point of view: By comparing the history of two universities with mid- and long-term span, we can see what kind of the powers were interested and interfered in them: primarily urban society sustained universities with the background of Hanseatic League, then princes took part as patron of the academy. Each of them had very different motivation and the reaction from older patrons also had great variety. With such political and social background, position and function of university changed gradually towards Early Modern period.
-From social-historical analyses: in Northern Germany, actual function of the universities at that time was no more than retainment of the leaned jurists, and the systematic role as educational institution or contribution to "modernization" was not expected for university. In this point, they remained as medieval university and kept certain level of independence. "Loss of Autonomy" in Early Modern period will come with immobilization of specific professional or exclusive role of the university. Naturally in those periods, however, condition and function of the organ should be considered from every direction.