St Scholastica Day Riot


138 points | by brudgers 15 days ago


  • akiselev 13 days ago
    > Around 30 townsfolk were killed, as were up to 63 members of the university.

    > Violent disagreements between townspeople and students had arisen several times previously, and 12 of the 29 coroners' courts held in Oxford between 1297 and 1322 concerned murders by students. The University of Cambridge was established in 1209 by scholars who left Oxford following the lynching of two students by the town's citizens.

    Man, college towns used to be so much more violent!

    I never knew about the connection between a saint and the word/concept of scholastics, nor that a university as notable as Cambridge was started because the locals lynched students. That's pretty cool, TIL!

    Edit: Sidenote, why does the graduation ceremony at Cambridge look like they're going to drown a witch? [1]


    • gigfkb 13 days ago
      That is not a photo of the graduation ceremony. It shows a student punting. He is wearing the gown needed for the ceremony.
      • edgineer 13 days ago
        I had to look up "punting." It means boating in a punt (which is a small boat).
        • spatulon 13 days ago
          Importantly, the punt is propelled by having someone stand at the back and push a pole against the river bed. It's popular with students and tourists in both Oxford and Cambridge, although the two cities disagree over which end of a punt is the back.
    • simonh 13 days ago
    • RRWagner 13 days ago
      And why do we recognize graduates of higher education in the 21st century by making them wear clothes from 500 years ago?? I know "why" but somehow it would be more forward-looking if they were even wearing Starfleet uniforms.
      • akiselev 13 days ago
        I'm guessing for one of the same reasons they were used originally. From that town and gown wiki article [1]:

        > The gown also served as a social symbol, as it was impractical for physical manual work.

        The gowns symbolize that graduates are now above physical manual labor and are destined for greater things (Starbucks barista)


        • thinkingemote 13 days ago
          I wonder what today's version of the gown would be. Something that would be impractical for both service work (barista) and brain work (prompt engineer).

          Maybe ski gloves or a sling or maybe a respirator with sunglasses.

      • pjc50 13 days ago
        It's from 500 years ago, but it's also from 50 years ago and from 5 years ago; that is, it's continuous and has not really had a specific occasion to change. Although the fur is usually no longer real.

        Oxbridge are not called "the dreaming spires" for nothing; there's a timelessness to the place that all the antique surroundings and rituals accentuate. The 20th century has largely got rid of formalwear as an important concept, but (at least while I was there) the gown wasn't just for graduation, it was for formal dinners, which would be held on various occasions or up to several times a week in the larger colleges for the sake of having a nice dinner.

      • barry-cotter 13 days ago
        Some people believe that things from the past have value, and that continuing traditions is good in itself, providing a sense of meaning and community.
      • jrumbut 13 days ago
        I think it's so important to keep universities connected to the tradition they arose out of in small ways like a gown.

        It's amazing, when you read the history, how much of today's discourse about the value of a university education, the conduct of students, and the antagonism between university faculty and intellectuals who exist outside the walls of the university is a replay of stuff that happened in the 14th century and every century in between.

      • aaron695 13 days ago
    • DeathArrow 13 days ago
      >Man, college towns used to be so much more violent!

      I was expecting they riot on diversity grounds, not for such prosaic reasons. Those ancient students were so little politically and morally evolved!

      • pjc50 13 days ago
        Oxbridge has never been especially diverse or progressive; there were riots against the admission of women:

        By 1988 this had diminished to resentful grumbling from Magdalene.

        (I'm not sure if there's even a UK counterpart to "absurdly progressive US university that gets mentioned by conservative culture war campaigners" all the time?)

        • DubiousPusher 13 days ago
          LoL, which one? Probably Evergreen State College in Washington or UC Berkeley? These are like catnip for conservative pundits.
  • DubiousPusher 12 days ago
    The petty incitement of this immediately reminded me of The Straw Hat Riot.

    It's hard for people today to understand just how sudden, frequent and destructive mass violence was in the past. Up to our very recent history. As recently as the 70s there were fairly regular riots in America that would make most of what you saw in 2020 look pretty pedestrian.

    • joenot443 12 days ago
      Pedestrian? Didn’t like 19 people die during the protests in 2020?

      I don’t see any deaths listed for the Straw Hat Riot, I don’t see any mention of lootings or arson either. On the other hand, I was in Seattle during the worst of the 2020 riots, I’d never seen such anger and destruction in my life.

      • DubiousPusher 12 days ago
        I'll clarify because that was perhaps too flippant on my part. There are episodes from the 2020 protests which match the intensity of past American riots at times. But for how widespread and recurring the protests were, they had a lower density of and a lower conversion to violence.

        • joenot443 12 days ago
          There certainly are a lot! I was only living in an affected city during the '20 protests, so that's all I feel confident commenting on.
          • joenot443 12 days ago
            Ah I see your edit now. I understand what you're getting at, you're right.
      • heywhatupboys 12 days ago
        This comment reeks of racism, I hadn't thought I would have to read these absurdist takes on HN. Would you write the same thing about the civil rights demonstrations?
        • joenot443 12 days ago
          This comment reeks of low effort finger pointing, I hadn’t thought I would have to read these juvenile takes on HN. Would you feel the same way if 200 people had died? 2000? For the record, I have nothing but support for the cause they were protesting, policing in America is hugely broken and there are well-documented racial elements to that failure, but I don’t think I’m alone in wishing demonstrations themselves hadn’t been so destructive.

          Try making this comment again without using the R word. Are you of the opinion that the protests in Seattle are immune from criticism? I had a friend who closed her store after it was looted twice. Where does she fit into your distressingly simple model?

          I was living next to CHOP during the whole ordeal. If you don’t have on the ground experience, I genuinely don’t think your opinion is worth anything here, I’m sorry.

          • throwbadubadu 12 days ago
            It is maybe the cause you describe well:

            > policing in America is hugely broken and there are well-documented racial elements to that failure,


            > it spread due to men wearing straw hats past the unofficial date that was deemed socially acceptable,

            that made your comparison a bit triggering, and even if you did not mean it, not totally incomprehensible?

            Those two also fail to compare in other dimensions, e.g. size, so not sure if worth it at all..

            • joenot443 12 days ago
              I'm not the one who originally made the comparison and I completely agree; the two are so different they _shouldn't_ be compared.

              Regardless of how one feels about the motives or the methods, I think it's safe to say it was a fairly watershed moment for the US whose importance shouldn't be downplayed.

              • DubiousPusher 12 days ago
                Can I say that my goal was not to compare the two in an absolutist way.

                There is a narrative that developed about the 2020 protests that they were categorically different from the America's past because some of them spilled over into violent episodes. The talk was borderline existential regarding them as something new in American society. They were frequently unfavorably compared to the "peaceful" civil rights protests of the 60s.

                But those protests were only peaceful in the small cherry-picked set that progressive historians and non-violence aligned activists have succeeded in turning into the canonical story of America. The civil rights movement in fact did have episodes of ambiguous violence. Critics at the time cited these incidents as reasons the protests should stop or wait. King references these critics directly in the Letter from the Birmingham Jail. It's barely buried history.

                What's more, the protests occured amongst a back drop of constant deadly violence and struggle over all kinds of grievance and issues. Forget the risk of an antifa punching you in the jaw. There were people with deadly weapons, ready to do deadly violence or at least advocating it. From The Weather Underground to The Black Panthers to MOVE to biker gangs and on.

                But the popular narrative wishes to ignor all this. How many times during 202 did I hear some boomer say, "look what we got done with civil rights without violence." But they have imbibed the Forest Gumpification of history. This myth is used to create an impossible standard, according to which, any incidental violence immediately discredits change.

                I point to The Straw Hats because the are the most blatant tell to the law that America has a 'peaceful' past. That people are now somehow more unreasonable, easily triggered to violence and with thinner justification for their demands.

        • hackeraccount 12 days ago
          You've made me feel completely alienated from the world.
  • __MatrixMan__ 13 days ago
    > The ... riot took place in ... 1355 ... complained about the quality of wine served to them in the Swindlestock Tavern

    > this was the site of the swindlestock tavern 1250–1709 (

    > swindler (n.) 1774 (


    • defrost 13 days ago
      You might want to look to the use of Swind and Swynde in English texts from the centuries before, eg: Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum [1]


      which the OED gives as

      "To waste away, languish; to dwindle, decrease; to vanish, disappear."

      and then Swindle Stock would be the site of a place of punishment - stocks on which people are put to waste away and diminish.

      Of course, language being plastic, it might also be the pub in which farm workers drank after listening to the sound of Sycthes while cutting sheaves to Stuck (or Stock) (placed uprtight to air and dry); but that's a stretch.

      I drank with the harvesters, who sang me songs about rural life, such as—‘Sitting in the swale; and listening to the swindle of the flail, as it sounds dub-a-dub on the corn, from the neighbouring barn.’

  • duxup 13 days ago
    I struggle to follow / understand a lot of things in the past.

    We get history that understandably is written by the more educated from those times. I really don't know that we know what the local rando citizens thought or were thinking.

    Heck even when we get history and information from the people at the time sometimes it is confusing. The English Civil War is completely confusing for me.

    • tenpies 13 days ago
      > We get history that understandably is written by the more educated from those times. I really don't know that we know what the local rando citizens thought or were thinking.

      One of my favourite history series was HBO's Rome because it tackled this directly.

      Sure, you have all the important aristocratic characters, but you also have all the no-name soldiers, slaves, and Roman citizens.

      At one point, a legionnaire gets into a bar fight with some Romans. The next day, that same legionnaire is escorting Marc Anthony and they get attacked by an angry mob. Marc Anthony interprets it as an attack on himself, but the mob was actually just pissed at the one legionnaire from the bar fight the night before and forces the group to retreat.

      The whole thing is interpreted by the aristocrats as an attack by the Pompeiian mobs on tribune Marc Anthony. This in turn, prevented Marc Anthony from exercising his office, and the whole thing snow balls into Caesar being forced to cross the Rubicon.

      Entire history potentially made, because a legionnaire got into a bar fight. Now this is fiction, but it's incredible to think how many stories like this must exist outside of our records.

    • eru 13 days ago
      > I really don't know that we know what the local rando citizens thought or were thinking.

      Yes, that's a big problem. That a big part of why finding Pompeii was important: the volcanic eruption preserved everything, including daily life and random graffiti.

      In a more general sense, that's also why archaeologists love digging up trash dumps. See

      • paganel 13 days ago
        There's also this famous history book about life in the early 1300s in a village located in the Northern Pyrenees: Montaillou, village occitan de 1294 à 1324 [1]:

        > Montaillou examines the lives and beliefs of the population of Montaillou, a small village in the Pyrenees with only around 250 inhabitants, at the beginning of the fourteenth century. It is largely based on the Fournier Register, a set of records from the Inquisition which investigated and attempted to suppress the spread of Catharism in the Ariège region from 1318 to 1325, during the reigns of Philip V "the Tall" and Charles IV "the Fair".


    • baryphonic 13 days ago
      > The English Civil War is completely confusing for me.

      That's interesting, because I see Cavaliers vs Roundheads as the prototypical debate about the nature of Western culture that we are still having today.

    • zone411 13 days ago
      The Pillars of the Earth and its follow-up by Ken Follet are fun (but long) fiction novels set in Medieval England, which help you envision living in that world. I'm not sure how accurate they are when it comes to people's general attitudes, though.
    • narrator 13 days ago
      One thing I've learned about the ancient world is it was hyper-violent. Some guys could come over the hill and kill everyone in a tribe for stupid reasons.
  • podgib 13 days ago
    I was a tour guide in Oxford while I was doing my PhD there. This was always my favourite story to tell. It's a part of history that is simultaneously so foreign and yet so relatable today.
  • ExMachina73 13 days ago
    I feel like there's a script for a movie here, no? Has this event been dramatized in anyway? Reads like "Gangs of New York (2002)."
    • groestl 13 days ago
      "according to those sympathetic to the university, de Chesterfield threw his wooden drinking vessel at de Croydon's head; those sympathetic to the townsfolk say the student beat him around the head with the pot."

      This is 6 centuries ago.. Amazing

  • shusaku 13 days ago
    > While the royal commission of inquiry was in place, John Gynwell, the Bishop of Lincoln, imposed an interdict on the townspeople, and banned all religious practices, including services (except on key feast days), burials and marriages; only baptisms of young children were allowed.

    That is quite an interesting tidbit

  • Simon_O_Rourke 13 days ago
    Things back in the day seemed to escalate quickly.

    If the local college kids here in upstate New York complained of the quality of the wine in my local tavern, I'd definitely... *checks notes* incite the local townsfolk to extrajudicialy kill 63 of their campus colleagues.

  • ChrisMarshallNY 12 days ago
    I remember reading an article that said, if the Inspector Morse Mysteries were reflecting real life, Oxford would be one of the most dangerous places on Earth.

    Maybe they were just a few centuries off...

  • dredmorbius 13 days ago
    Town & gown strife goes way back.

    (I'd stumbled across the SSDR a few years back, it's a fascinating bit of academic & cultural history.)

  • swapsCAPS 13 days ago
    Just. Wow. This has piqued my interest, is there any background information as to why this happened (so often)? There must have been underlying tentions, wondering what those were, but can imagine it's just lost to history
    • pnut 12 days ago
      The article explained it?

      Oxford scholars were literally above the law, and used their protected status to abuse and demean the townspeople, up to and including the mayor.

      After the riot, the king cracked down and reasserted the arrangement, which apparently continued in some forms for another 500 years.

    • jonstewart 12 days ago
      There's some important context that's also not covered by the Wikipedia article: the Black Death swept through Europe from 1347–1350. England's population declined by almost half and would not recover to the same level until the 1600s. As we've seen with covid, but just as a shadow, the population decline led to a huge labor shortage and high inflation. So, 1355 wasn't a happy time.
  • shaftoe444 13 days ago
  • chasil 13 days ago
    If forever the moment was to buy a fellow bar patron a drink, that was it.
  • idontwantthis 13 days ago
    Reminds me of the "sacks" in Ananthem.
  • DeathArrow 13 days ago
    One doesn't simply mess with one man's booze without consequences.
  • jeron 13 days ago
    And we’ve had the Scholastic Book Faire every year since
    • JoBrad 13 days ago
      And Carfax.
      • petesergeant 13 days ago
        Hard to move a 12th century church tower, no?
        • bee_rider 13 days ago
          And if you do, it really hurts the resale value.
  • christophilus 13 days ago
    Ah, for those halcyon days. They were simpler times.