A Brill Calendar: August 2
Few government activities were more promoted in 1814 than a new regulation for higher education in the Kingdom of The Netherlands.
This was quick work indeed; the Kingdom itself had only come into being two months earlier, in November 1813. But a new legal arrangement for the national Alma Mater was imperative, as the almost total autonomy of Leyden University - fiercely and adroitly defended since 1575 - had been annihilated since the French annexation of February 1812. A committee chaired by Adam Francois Jules Armand van der Duyn van Maasdam (Deventer, April 13 1771 – The Hague, December 19 1848), a Leyden alumnus, started work on January 18 1814; fully intending to restore the independence of olden days.
However, King Willem’s Secretary of State, Anton Reinhard Falck (Utrecht, March 19 1777 – Brussels, March 16 1843) saw to it that the draft of its proposal included important amendments, curbing academic independence and limiting the political power of the Leyden ‘curatores’ to the benefit of Crown-influence... But, on August 2 1815, less than two months after Waterloo, an ‘organic decision’ was issued; it would regulate higher education in The Netherlands nation-wide for 61 years until 1876; with Leyden formally recognized as the Country’s ‘First School’.
One of the most brilliant minds ever to occupy a Leyden Chair, Eduard Maurits Meijers (Den Helder, January 10 1880, Oegstgeest, June 25 1954), wrote a lucid analysis in the Leyden ‘Festschrift’ celebrating 350 years of existence of Leyden University. He saw the institution as a ‘self-reliant body throughout the ages’. It is seldom that 18 printed pages of scholarly text suffice already to provide the reader with a comprehensive idea of a presumably tortuous and arcane subject; but under Meijers’s pen, the university’s history was transformed into an important and fascinating essay - explaining 61years of waning academic independence.