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Honorary Doctoral Degrees as Expressions of Political and Cultural Relationships at Nordic University Jubilees (1840–1911)



The traditional conferment of honorary doctorates on the occasion of university celebrations goes back to the beginning of the 19th century. However, particularly in Northern Europe, on the occasion of university jubilees, the solemn promotion of honorary doctors was still combined with the traditional and ceremonious interpretation of the normal doctor's promotion. Both ceremonies had its own function: the latter was conceived in the first place as a national celebration; the former was intended to radiate the international character and especially the (more or less) Scandinavianist attitude of the university. In this way the conferment of honorary degrees can be considered an ideal measure of the jubilee's general message. This thesis will be developed by means of seven university celebrations, which together offer an excellent overview of the development of the academic relationship between the Nordic countries: Helsinki's bicentenary in 1840, Dorpat's 50th anniversary in 1852, Lund's bicentenary in 1868, Uppsala's quartercentenary in 1877, Copenhagen's quartercentenary in 1879 and finally Kristiania's centenary and the foundation of the University of Iceland, both in 1911. In all these cases honorary degrees functioned as expressions of political and cultural relationships, rather than as academic degrees to honour a specific person.

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