A University in 1693: New Light on William & Mary's Claim to the Title 'Oldest University in the United States'

William & Mary Law Review Online, Vol. 61

32 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021

See all articles by Thomas McSweeney

Thomas McSweeney

William & Mary Law School

Katharine Ello

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Elsbeth O'Brien

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: February 16, 2021

Abstract

William & Mary has traditionally dated its transformation from a college into a university to a set of reforms enacted in 1779. This article argues that William & Mary became a university long before that, however; it was actually granted the status and privileges of a university in its royal charter of February 8, 1693, a fact that has been obscured by a very literal translation of the Latin phrase “studium generale,” a term of art for a university. This would make William & Mary the first university the crown chartered outside of the British Isles, as well as the first university in what would become the United States.

Suggested Citation

McSweeney, Thomas and Ello, Katharine and O'Brien, Elsbeth, A University in 1693: New Light on William & Mary's Claim to the Title 'Oldest University in the United States' (February 16, 2021). William & Mary Law Review Online, Vol. 61, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3786727

Thomas McSweeney (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

Katharine Ello

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Elsbeth O'Brien

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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