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Blast From The Past: Student Protests In The 1800s

Blast From The Past: Student Protests In The 1800s

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Published October 9, 2017

Probably the most famous student protest ever in Iceland took place in 1850. A group of students at the Latin School (now Menntaskólin í Reykjavík, or MR, still located a big building downtown) were to be forced into a sobriety society by the dean and Homeric Poem translator Sveinbjörn Egilsson (shown above). Finding their basic human rights under threat, the students gathered outside his window and proclaimed “Sveinbjörn Pereat,” which is Latin for “Down with…”

The students proceeded to do this underneath every window in town. The dean wanted them punished and when he got no help from local authorities, he sailed all the way to Copenhagen for redress. It was eventually decided that no students would graduate that year, and many had to retake the curriculum. But sobriety remained unenforced.

In times of crisis, the students would gather at the Beneventum cliffs in Öskjuhlíðin. The next meeting there took place in 1895, when they decided to protest the abolishment of the King’s Prayer day, which was a day off of school. The last recorded student meeting was in 1928, when they were to be punished for loud singing at night. Student protests have continued intermittently ever since, but largely without the aid of Latin.


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