A day in the life of a 17th Century King’s College Student

A Gowned Student, 1677. University of Aberdeen Picture Collection
A Gowned Student, 1677. University of Aberdeen Picture Collection

A 17th century King’s College student’s life was certainly a world away from the life of students nowadays. Students were expected to live a life of prayer and study. Starting at 5am ending finally at 9pm the students were strictly disciplined and could expect punishments, fines and even expulsion if caught breaking any of the College rules. The rules for a boarding student were different from a student who lodged outside the College. Non-boarders had a greater degree of freedom from those who resided within the College, who were under the watchful eye of the masters most of the day.

As part of this year’s Explore your Archives week, a series of tweets and blog have been created to engage audiences with the rich stories of student life held within our collections. The inspiration for the tweets comes from two sources: MSK 265 ‘laws and regulations’ for King’s College, which were introduced in 1641 and Colin MacLaren’s work on Aberdeen Students. Colin McLaren’s detailed research reconstructs the lifestyle of early students and provides an approximation of a 17th century student’s timetable and studies.

Below is the selection of rules from MSK 265 which were used to inspire the posts:

‘All to rise at five in the morning at the sound of the bell, and to clean their chambers. Care to be taken of fire, under penalty of expulsion.’

‘Absentees from religious meetings, or parties not properly attired thereat, or on Sundays, and absentees from morning and evening prayers, to be punished or fined.’

‘All to be dressed gravely and neatly.’

‘Civility to be observed at meals and meetings; conversation to be modest, and on honourable and useful subjects.’

‘Lectures to be repeated and discussed in the presence of the teachers from eleven o’clock to dinner’.

‘The bursars to give thanks at meals in order, to read a chapter of the bible prescribed by the principal…’

‘The students to confine their sports among themselves: in sporting, modesty and gentleness to be observed.’

‘Bible and psalm books to be brought to religious meetings.’

 ‘Violence and gambling is prohibited on pain of expulsion.’

‘None to disturb their fellow students while asleep or at study: meetings in bedchambers are to be avoided.’


Spalding Club, Fasti Aberdonenses: selections from the records of the University and King’s College of Aberdeen, 1494-1854, Aberdeen, 1854

McLaren, C. A., Aberdeen Students 1600 – 1800, Aberdeen, University of Aberdeen, 2005

The day in the life of a 17th century King’s Student is part of a wider project to catalogue and promote the King’s College Archives.

For more information about the project, see the following webpage:



One comment

  1. […] The King’s College Project Archivist Mary Sabiston delivered a talk to the Danestone Local History Group discussing the ‘Life of a 17th century student’ at King’s College. The talk covered the calendar and timetable of the students, their curriculum and of course discipline at the college. The talk was inspired by a series of tweets and blog post which were created as part of the National ‘Explore your archives’ campaign. The original blog can be found here. […]

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