University of Edgestow

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The University of Edgestow is a fictional university which appears in the novel That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. It is a small collegiate institution, dating back to at least the 14th Century. It has four colleges:

  • Bracton College
  • Northumberland College
  • Dukes College
  • St. Elizabeth's College (the only ladies' college)

Some commentators[who?] have suggested that it may be based on Durham University, to which it bears certain similarities. However, Lewis denied any connection with Durham (a university of which he was fond) and close examination show the similarities to be superficial: Edgestow is a medieval foundation, a third "Oxbridge" university, while Durham was founded in the early 19th Century (though some of its buildings are indeed medieval). Bracton College (where much of the novel's story takes place) is a fellows-only institution, which was probably based on All Souls College, Oxford.[citation needed]

History[edit]

The University has an ancient history, some details of which are lost. It suffered during the English Civil War, when Roundheads killed at least one Royalist don. Less clear details, from further back in history, indicate that Bragdon Wood -- the grounds of Bracton College -- is the location of the grave of Merlin.

The novel begins after the Second World War, when the British government establishes the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.), which is intended to bring to the problems of peace the same scientific organization which had won the war. Bracton College is keen to persuade the N.I.C.E. to base itself in Edgestow, and succeeds in selling them a site including a large part of Bracton Wood -- an action which attracts some controversy. Extensive building works cause more disruption than had been anticipated, and disorder leads to the appointment of Lord Feverstone, a leading N.I.C.E. official and fellow of Bracton College, as Emergency Commissioner.

At the climax of the novel, a large part of the town, including the whole of Bracton College, is destroyed in a freak natural disaster. The exact nature of this disaster remains unspecified, but the description includes earthquakes and subterranean explosions. Extraordinary numbers of residents leave shortly before this happens, for reasons ranging from coincidental (one resident receives a telegram from a relative) to portentous (various residents report animals telling them to leave). Lord Feverstone, however, dies in the disaster.

The Sub-warden of Bracton, Dr. Curry, has a narrow escape from the disaster. As the only surviving fellow (aside from Mark Studdock who was deemed to have resigned) he anticipates becoming the new Warden of Bracton College and playing a key role in the rebuilding of the university. However, it is unknown whether any of these ambitions are actually fulfilled, as the story ends shortly after the Edgestow disaster.