Telling the story of Leicestershire’s first university

Origins of the University of Leicester explored in joint lecture with Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society on Monday 22 October.

The events that led to the creation of Leicestershire’s first university, and the only one founded as a living memorial to those who made sacrifices in the First World War, are to be retold in a public lecture.

Professor Gordon Campbell FBA, Emeritus Professor and Fellow in Renaissance Studies at the University of Leicester, will speak on ‘History and Memory: 100 years of the University of Leicester’ on 22 October in the University’s Peter Williams Lecture Theatre.

His lecture comes as the University looks forward to its centenary in 2021 and is held jointly with the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, one of the driving forces behind its establishment as the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland University College.

The lecture is free and open to the public, places can be booked here

Professor Campbell’s lecture will focus on the early history of the University, its long relationship with the Literary and Philosophical Society, and the ways in which the University has outgrown its original aspirations.

A university for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland was first suggested by the President of the Society in 1885, The Rev James Went, headmaster of the Wyggeston Boys’ School, in his Presidential Address. However, it was not until 1912 that the idea was revived by Dr Astley V. Clarke, but the declaration of war on Germany in 1914 delayed any implementation of the idea. Dr Clarke continued to promote the concept and in 1920 the College was at last founded and with the splendid Lutyens Arch of Remembrance became Leicester’s memorial to those who had died in the First World War.

The first students were taught under the Principal of Dr R F Rattray, who was also a member of the Society.

Professor Campbell said: “Leicester differs from other universities of the period in that it was founded by a learned society rather than a city council. The vision of the Lit and Phil was responsible for the foundation of the University, and also for the foundation of the New Walk Museum. Throughout our first century, the Lit and Phil has remained resolute in its support for this University, and has contributed in many valuable ways to its development.

“We must value the past, but not be bound by it. For the University to prosper, its activities and provision must be constantly evaluated and improved. Change is an indicator of institutional strength.”

Nigel Wood, President of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society said: “The development of the University of Leicester is of deep interest to the city’s inhabitants for many reasons, and Professor Campbell is pre-eminently qualified to inform us about how it had such an impact upon civic life in general. We know that the account will spark debate as well as inform.”

Professor Campbell is a Renaissance and seventeenth-century specialist with broad interests in cultural history, art, architecture, legal history and theology. He has a keen interest in the Islamic world and is an acknowledged expert on John Milton. He also had published by the Oxford University Press ‘Bible; The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011 to celebrate the quarter centenary of the King James Bible’.

‘History and Memory: 100 years of the University of Leicester’ will take place on Monday 22 October at 5.30pm in the Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, Fielding Johnson South Wing, University of Leicester. The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the Council Suite. The lecture is free and open to the public, places can be booked here