Leuven University, 1425–1985
In 1425 the publication of a Bull of Pope Martin V gave the go-ahead for the foundation of a university at Louvain. During the following months, in accordance with medieval custom, the new establishment acquired ecclesiastical, civil and municipal privileges that were meant to secure its autonomy, as well as material assistance allowing it to function.
The Old University was abolished in 1797, when the lands of today's Belgium were annexed by revolutionary France. Teaching resumed in 1817, but the establishment was then considerably different from the previous one: after 1817, Louvain was the seat of one of the three State Universities set up in the southern provinces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Once Belgium seceded with the Revolution of 1830, men felt that there were to many universities, and accordingly it was resolved to maintain only those of Ghent and Liège. If the State decided to abolish its University at Louvain, the decision was partly owing to the creation by the Belgian bishops of a Catholic University at Malines in 1834. At the instigation of the municipal authorities of Louvain this University was transferred to Louvain, where some of the Old University buildings, acquired since 1797 by the town, were then put at its disposal.
In the summer of 1968 the decision was taken to split up the Catholic University of Louvain into two completely autonomous institutions, the Dutch-speaking Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven and the French-speaking Université Catholique de Louvain.
The authors of this work have sought to accomplish the task of presenting to a wider public the story of the Universities of Louvain in their successive forms and multifarious aspects. They have not solely tried to describe the institutions and the teaching and research to which their professors devoted themselves, in some cases reaching world-famous renown, they have also attempted to show the social realities underlying the life of the University's members, both professors and students, and to delineate the role of the University community as regards both civil and ecclesiastical society.