At the time of its publication in 1923, Charles Homer Haskins' The Rise of Universities was considered remarkable for its erudition, succinctness, and balance. The his-torian Theodor Mommsen described it as "a work which has remained unsurpassed in the conciseness and vividness of its account." Eight decades after its appearance, it remains fresh and informative. It has not been surpassed, and is as invaluable as ever.
Haskins traces the rise of the mediaeval university as one phase of the intellectual awakening in Europe in the late Middle Ages, in an effort to broaden our understanding of "the ancient and universal company of scholars." In the depth and breadth of its analysis, there is no better portrait of universities during their infancy in the Middle Ages. With great detail and preci-sion, Haskins describes the university's curriculum, teaching, teachers, and students. Drawing deeply on his knowledge as one of the leading mediaeval scholars of his day, he provides an exceptionally vivid picture of student life of tht time, through his analysis of their manuals, letters, and poetry. The Rise of Universities goes far beyond its central subject to offer a broad description of the social conditions in which universities took root and flourished. At the same time, one cannot read Haskins without seeing the influences of the mediaeval university on contemporary institutions of higher learning. The Rise of Universities reminds us that the univer-sity has not only been a crucible fostering intellectual inquiry and creativity, but continues after eight hundred years to be a center of teaching and learning.
In his new introduction, Lionel S. Lewis develops Haskins' passing observation that "the university of the twentieth cen-tury is the lineal descendant of mediaeval Paris and Bologna," and considers the question of why universities came into being at the particular time in history when they did. The Rise of the Universities will be of interest to educators and students who wish to better understand the institutions in which they have lived, taught, and been taught.