A Beacon in the Tempest
Chapter 2: The undergraduate experience
1 LONDON UNDERGRADUATE When Neville entered the matriculation class at Amersham Hall and set his sights on an academic career, he was inspired by the example of the headmaster’s undergraduate son, Alfred West, who was reading moral sciences at Trinity College Cambridge, having taken the route via London University. Founded in 1825 by the Benthamites, University College was designed to offer a broader and more utilitarian education than was available in either Oxford or Cambridge. For the son of a nonconformist businessman it had obvious attractions. From the start it was based on the principle of religious liberty and conﬁned its teaching to secular subjects on the assumption that its students would acquire such religious instruction as they wanted either at some denominational residential hostel or at home. University Hall, Gordon Square, was the hall of residence set up in 1848 to provide them with the accommodation and social advantages of college residence, whilst openly disavowing all denominational distinctions and tests and insisting on the sanctity of private judgement in matters of religion.1 It was in this self-consciously open-minded academic community that young Neville took up residence in October 1869. Its current principal, Edward Beesly, was a radical positivist professor of history in University College (as well as of Latin at Bedford College) and had acquired notoriety in the early 1860s as a defender of militant trade unions.2 By the late 1860s, University College had built up a strong reputation as a medical school and as a centre for...
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