Things that are big have often started out small. Even the student nation-life in Lund. Lundagård has taken a closer look at how a motley band of youths laid the foundation of a full-blown student nation with hundreds of members.
By Louise Lennartsson
Translation by Estrid Ericson Borggren
Illustration by Julia Juväng
The year is 1668. Scania has been Swedish since the Treaty of Roskilde, and two years prior, Charles XI founded “Regia Academia Carolina”.
On the streets of Lund, students have begun moving around. Some of the newcomers are former Uppsala-students, and they bring with them a continental and ancient nation-tradition, which has been established in Uppsala since the 1640s. The University Management are not exactly cheering, neither in Uppsala nor in Lund, rather, they impose severe prohibitions on nation-meetings and intend to expel anyone who does not obey.
“Mainly the prohibition of nations is based on a fear of bullying and that too rough introductory rituals will scare new students away”, says archivist Fredrik Tersmeden.
“In Lund, there is further the fear that conflicts might arise between students from the former Danish provinces and students from the rest of Sweden. The University Management want to avoid such incidents.”
Five of the Uppsala-students, who during the earlier years arrive in Lund, are originally from Östergötland, and in Lund they band together with another nine fellow countrymen and form Östgöta Nation. In agreement with the customs from Uppsala they elect an Inspector and a Curator. They adopt statutes with strict penal provisions, in Latin,and they organise nightly keggers at the taverns in the city; not rarely does it end with Östgöta students in the proban, a school prison.
The students’ perseverance pays off. When the University realises that the prohibition on nations does not have the intended effect, they adopt a more pragmatic attitude. Östgöta Nation and Småland Nation, at the time there were only the two, are allowed to be maintained, provided that a professor under the title Inspector is allowed to survey the activity. It is yet decades, until 1695, before the nations are officially acknowledged in a royal letter.
Students from Östergötland are somewhat difficult to recruit during the first 250 years. One year before the nation’s 200th jubilee, there is written in a missive that “the Nation for the time being had no in the city present member”. The numbers are not much more cheerful in 1901 – then the nation has two members: one is Curator and Treasurer, and the other is Senior, Librarian, and Notary. Östgöta Nation is however not alone in its problems. At the end of the 19th century, the number of nations has grown to 12 student nations and many of them are suffering from a dry spell. This probably depends on, above all, that in 1864, the university entrance examination was moved from the universities and placed at State secondary schools.
The turn of the tide comes in the 20th century, when reforms of the Education Policy sends the membership numbers from two to a thousand.
Suddenly the Östgöta students are too many to be hosted by the Inspector or the Curator, as during the first 150 years. Even the Academic Society, where students have been hosted since its establishment in 1830, is becoming crowded. In the 1950s, the management of Östgöta Nation start looking for new premises – not an easy task in a city with growing pains and housing shortage, and in the end it is decided that they will build a new house on Adelgatan. In August 1959, the house is finished and a tail-coated crowd gather for a festive opening ceremony with a banquet and fireworks. The atmosphere is so cheerful that not even the fact that a firework scorches the suit of one of the foremost donators, can affect it.
The years is now 2018. What started out as 14 wayward youths has, 350 years later, grown into a student nation hosting 1700 members. This will be celebrated with pomp and circumstance, and at Adelgatan the preparations are underway. In an email to Lundagård, Julia Carldén, Curator of Östgöta Nation, writes “Beyond the jubilee ball in January we will, among other things, release a jubilee book and a new songbook”.