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Iforgotthis
07-20-2014, 11:21 PM
My character is male and 21 at the time of the novel. He is from a wealthy family and is expected to go to university, specifically oxford. The year he goes is 1847, and he lives in England. He will study law, or politics.
However, there seems to be little about which courses the university offered at the time. Will it be fairly similar to now?
Is there anyone who can share some insight on which courses would have been available? It would be greatly appreciated.

mirandashell
07-20-2014, 11:36 PM
This might help:

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/hughes/ambrose2.html

It talks about Tom Brown being at Oxford and if you can find the original text, it should be very useful.

I know for sure there was theology and law but not sure about anything else.

mirandashell
07-20-2014, 11:40 PM
This might also be helpful, or at least lead you in the right direction:

http://himetop.wikidot.com/oxford-university-museum-of-natural-history

mirandashell
07-20-2014, 11:43 PM
And you will also need to be aware of the Oxford Movement as they were very influential / notorious at the time.

King Neptune
07-20-2014, 11:44 PM
Try searching the sites of the various colleges. I found this as one example.
http://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/about/history
And I expect that there is a great deal more.
http://www.ox.ac.uk/about/colleges

mirandashell
07-20-2014, 11:52 PM
Ah yes, that's a good idea. Oxford is more a group of institutions than a single university.

snafu1056
07-21-2014, 12:50 AM
Heres a guide to the univeristy and the town from 1828 (you can download it as a pdf). Might be a place to start

http://books.google.com/books?id=SoAHAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=html_text

Medievalist
07-21-2014, 01:06 AM
You couldn't really study politics as a degree; Law, theology, languages (ancient mostly via Philology or Classics etc.), history, sciences, mathematics, philosophy/logic.

Iforgotthis
07-21-2014, 11:59 AM
Sorry for not replying sooner.
This is all really helpful, thank you so much everyone! :D

Lil
07-21-2014, 05:29 PM
Isn't 21 a little old to be starting University?

ULTRAGOTHA
07-21-2014, 10:03 PM
21 is about when students today are *leaving* Oxford. Many would be leaving even younger back then.

Iforgotthis
07-23-2014, 04:45 PM
21 is about when students today are *leaving* Oxford. Many would be leaving even younger back then.

Well, there's no real age limit on going to university is there? You don't *have* to be 18/19. 21 is only a couple years older than that anyway.

mirandashell
07-23-2014, 04:53 PM
Ermmmmm.... no. That's not really how it works. Going to Oxford University in the 19th century wasn't just about learning stuff. It was also about the contacts you make and the future you set up for yourself. Going later than everyone else puts you at a disadvantage.

Check out the government and see how many ministers in the last century went to Oxbridge. Then check leaders of big British companies. Loads of them went to Oxbridge. Professors, scientific leaders,... loads. Even certain sports like rowing are full of Oxbridge old boys.

Going to Oxbridge is about a lot more than your education. So yeah, if I was reading your story I would want to know why he waited so long.

Helix
07-23-2014, 05:05 PM
You'll probably have to choose a college rather than just saying he went to Oxford. Might be worth finding a biography of someone who would have been a contemporary of your character. There'd be no shortage of them, as mirandashell said.

Iforgotthis
07-24-2014, 12:36 AM
Ermmmmm.... no. That's not really how it works. Going to Oxford University in the 19th century wasn't just about learning stuff. It was also about the contacts you make and the future you set up for yourself. Going later than everyone else puts you at a disadvantage.

Check out the government and see how many ministers in the last century went to Oxbridge. Then check leaders of big British companies. Loads of them went to Oxbridge. Professors, scientific leaders,... loads. Even certain sports like rowing are full of Oxbridge old boys.

Going to Oxbridge is about a lot more than your education. So yeah, if I was reading your story I would want to know why he waited so long.

I see your point. However, the town from which this man comes from is very isolated. He is not expected to make friends. He is expected to learn, and if he has to learn alone then so be it. His mother expects him to learn; it has been her goal to teach him to learn from his adoption. She doesn't even mind what he goes to learn, just that he learns. Then he is expected to return to his town and get a respectable career there. That is the mentality of the town he grows up in, one of the main features; no matter how far away you go, you're expected to return and stay there.
In reality him going to university is ambitious as-is. The idea of somebody leaving the town is discomforting. Too many ideas out there, too much distraction.
That's the situation he is in. A situation of knowledge not of friendship. There might be more to oxford than learning, but learning is all he is going for.

mirandashell
07-24-2014, 12:40 AM
Then I'm not sure he would be going to Oxford. There were always more applicants than places and an older applicant with no connections would be highly unlikely to get in. If I were you I would pick a different Uni.

Iforgotthis
07-24-2014, 01:23 AM
Cambridge perhaps? Any easier? It has to be one of the best, no other can do.

mirandashell
07-24-2014, 01:23 AM
Nope. There are other Universities. St Andrews for instance.

King Neptune
07-24-2014, 01:41 AM
If he just wants to gather learning, then one of the other universities would be better: St. Andrews, Glasgow, London, Queens, Wales, etc. Does the character want to learn anything in particular, because some of the universities are better in some realms of knowledge than others.

Iforgotthis
07-24-2014, 02:22 AM
If he just wants to gather learning, then one of the other universities would be better: St. Andrews, Glasgow, London, Queens, Wales, etc. Does the character want to learn anything in particular, because some of the universities are better in some realms of knowledge than others.

I was thinking something down the route of law/philosophy. I'll look into it; what's writing without a little research? :)
Thanks for your answer, and mirandashell too for your answers! In fact, everyone's been really helpful so thanks to everyone!

benbenberi
07-24-2014, 04:10 AM
What's his goal in going to university? In the 1840s, if he's not going for the social networking, unless he's planning to be a scholar, clergyman or MD it's not really a job requirement for anything -- even to be a lawyer didn't require a university degree, you could basically get all the credentials necessary by working as a clerk for a lawyer. Likewise, to go into business of any kind it's connections and/or practical experience that mattered, not formal schooling.

You say he's "expected to learn" -- what does he need to learn that a university setting and a university degree are required? It was entirely possible in the mid-19c for an individual to get all the information and learning he wanted from books, scholarly journals, correspondence with other educated persons, membership in scholarly & scientific societies, etc. -- it was the golden age of the amateur.

The main point of university, aside from professional credentialing in a very limited number of professions, was the social connections and networking it enabled. If that's not what you want for your character, you may want to think twice about sending him there.

Helix
07-24-2014, 04:34 AM
Iforgotthis, there wouldn't have been much of a choice of unis in 1848. Wherever you're going to send your character, you'll have to do a lot of research anyway. Why not one of the Scottish unis or Durham for a bit of a change from the usual Oxbridge setting?

mirandashell
07-24-2014, 12:55 PM
I have to agree with Ben. It's far more likely in that time that he would be doing his studies at home. A wealthy family could set up a lab for him if his interests are scientific. If he is more arty, then lessons at home would be provided and he could have as many materials as required.

University was regarded completely differently back then to how it is now. A wealthy man didn't need to go to learn.

King Neptune
07-24-2014, 04:29 PM
If he was going for philosophy, then university would make sense, but everyone is right about university for almost everything else.

A hundred fifty years ago anyone who went through a secondary school had as, or more, much knowledge and understanding of the liberal arts as a university graduate does now, so university education was not especially useful for most purposes.

Nualláin
07-25-2014, 04:23 AM
However, there seems to be little about which courses the university offered at the time. Will it be fairly similar to now?
Is there anyone who can share some insight on which courses would have been available? It would be greatly appreciated.

Setting aside the other questions, no, it was not remotely similar to now. In the early 1800s, there was really only a single "degree" at Oxford as we understand it, where most students studied a course of Latin and Greek Literature and theology along with maths and some philosophy and the like. It was a standard course, and a student's college would need to grant him special permission to deviate from it. Medicine was taught for postgraduates, and jurisprudence only on an exceptional basis.

Individual honour schools started to emerge in the middle of the century, but in 1847 there were still only two individual curricular subjects: Literae Humaniores (classics) and Mathematics. Law and history were established as subjects a few years later.

Generally speaking, there were three principal reasons to go to university around the time: to enter the clergy, to prepare for public service, or because you were young and wealthy and that was what young wealthy people did. That doesn't mean individual men mightn't have gone for reasons other than those, but going to university was not something you did on your way to getting a job as it is today (unless that job was in the public service or the church).

It's also true that one did not "go to Oxford", but rather attended a College that was loosely associated with the University.

frimble3
07-25-2014, 05:32 AM
Sounds like this is more of a vanity project by the mother. Her handpicked son is going to be the best, do the best, have the best, regardless of the appropriateness of her ambitions.
Going to be interesting when it's time to get him a wife.

Nualláin
07-25-2014, 09:06 AM
Returning to this thread briefly as I had some additional thoughts over dinner. "Going up" (a term which refers to enrolling at an Oxbridge college) at age 21 isn't implausible at all because there weren't particular ages for going to one school or another back then as there are now.

To use a few randomly selected examples, Lord Byron went up in 1805 aged 17. Thomas Bodley, after whom the Bodleian Library at Oxford is named, went up to Magdalen aged 15 and received his B.A. aged 18, granted that was in the 16th century so nowhere near your time period. On the other side of the coin, Thomas Hardy's friend Horace Moule, who has been suggested as the inspiration for Jude the Obscure, didn't go up to Queen's, Cambridge, until he was 22, and didn't get a B.A. until he was 35.

So don't get too hung up on how old he is.

On the question of whether he would go to Oxford, and if it were realistic to do so, Hardy's Jude is actually a good point of reference. All the action of the novel begins because Jude desperately wants to go to the university and learn things, just to study and to acquire knowledge. So Oxford did stand, for some people in your time period, as a symbol of the pure acquisition of knowledge. If a mother wanted her son to be a learned scholarly man, she would quite conceivably want him to go there... Whether he would be able to get there may be another matter.