Every city has a soul. This is a belief that I have held for a long time. Some believe that the soul of a city resides in its people, while some folklores consider it as a manifestation of an urban ego. An ego that has developed over millions of memories and events while transpiring against those million lives. It is a way the city receives and welcomes its being.
Cambridge was one such city for me. Please do not get me wrong. I did not study there, neither did I work there, yet on specific occasions, I could not disposition it from the back of my mind. There existed a charm and belongingness in every nook and corner (cranny) of the city. Wherever you walked into, a nostalgic sense would seep in. A sense of reception that only cities of actual historical importance are blessed with.
The rich geological and modern history, the scientific achievements and the colloquial life of Cambridgeshire attributes to a single commonality- the memories of events. Whether it be Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree leading to the discovery and justification of Gravity or Stephen Hawking’s work on Cosmology, none of them signifies the initial turbulence the city and the famous Cambridge University went through from the times of its foundation. Leading us to the question- “How was Cambridge University found?”
The University of Cambridge was found in the year 1209 by a few scholars who ran away from Oxford after its townspeople, under the backing of King John, hanged two innocent clerks to death on the suspicion of murder. The first trace of which leads people to the St Mary Church where the scholars held their initial meetings in secret.
Surprisingly, on further digging into its history, I realised that the history of women at Cambridge University has been rather dubious. For example, it was not until 1948 that the university first started awarding educational degrees to women. It was not until 1973- 1975, in the likes of King’s College, that the female students were welcomed to study. The details of which I hope to cover in another post.
So why was it that a city with such a dubious past marked such a strong connection? The answer lies with its student groups and the townspeople. Minimal interaction with them will reveal how positive and forward-looking they are. It is not the scientific discoveries alone that have propelled the place to such great heights but the acceptance of their past which others would be susceptible to. Every brick and pillar in Cambridge narrates a story. It tells you of the people and practices from an era gone by. How those events impacted and changed them for good. Every step you take propels you to a historical timeline. It teaches you that no matter what the odds, you too can become a part of it.
Maybe it is true when people say “you travel to a city when it calls for you, but you only visit it twice when it connects with you”.