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Category Archivehistory

Shadows of War

“I see by your gravestone you were only 19, when you joined the glorious fallen in 1916..”

This month Lost in a Cup dedicates a series of articles to explore the concept of ‘War’.


It is, by all means, not a new topic but it remains unfortunately a very current one. The uncertainty of global politics, a very controversial President of the United States together with rising tensions with North Korea and an international race in increasing manpower in the different armies does paint a potentially alarming scenario  which none of us dare to imagine.

Song extracts from Eric Bogle ‘No Man’s Land’ (1976). Full list of songs connected to this month’s theme can be found on the dedicated Spotify playlist ‘Lost in a Cup of War’.

The culture of fighting each other over power, control and resources is not new and from ancient Greek mythological anecdotes of ‘the battle of Troy’ to the recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq some elements are transnational and trans-historical.

“And I can’t help but wonder now Willie McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe them that this war would end war?”

William McBride was the name of an Irish soldiers who died in 1916, one of the many who fought a battle which most likely they barely understood and served the glory of an empire that did not fully represent him. It was this ‘war to end war’ idea that was maybe the most painful element of the ‘great war’. History shows us how unfortunately it was clearly not the end of all suffering as only a few years later the world would be plunged once more in a global conflict which caused even greater death and destruction to a much higher number of civilians too.

The distinguishing element of WWI from WWII is that it was mainly a fight between soldiers who were male individuals leaving most of the population out of the direct impact of the violence. The fact that teenagers were deceived and forced into cutting their lives short spending their final days living in torturous conditions  and suffering mental agony still makes it an awful chapter of history.

It to these lads who suffered and died in this war and all the ones that followed that I dedicate this month of the blog. Understanding war, is the only thing that might help us prevent more ones from happening.


More articles on this month’s thematic can be found at: lostinacup.com/war

From Church to Research

The University of Uppsala is the oldest in the Scandinavian peninsula as it was founded in 1477, even before Columbus discovered America. Few people know the reason why Uppsala was chosen as the ideal location for the first academic centre in this northern part of the old continent. As many things back in the day, it was strongly connected to the presence of the Church and as it was pre-reformation, the church in Sweden was Roman Catholic.

When Christianity first arrived in Sweden back in the 800s it’s first centre was on the island of Birka, approximately 58 kilometres south of Uppsala, on lake Mälaren. It was a strategically important place as a lot of trade at the time passed through there. However, Sweden’s first Archbishopric (the place where the Archbishop, the most ‘important’ Catholic priest of the region, has his headquarters) was instituted in Gamla Uppsala in 1164. Why Gamla Uppsala out of all places? The reason is simple – just as the Catholics have done throughout history when trying to expand the fellowship of their religion, they tried to ‘localise’ it and adapt to the previous cult of the region. In this period  this was connected to the Vikings Norse religion which had its most sacred centre in Gamla Uppsala. This is also where the great men (stormän) of the time (“kings” per se didn’t exist at this time, they were other great men) resided – so both spheres of power, religious and rule of the land were located there.

If you have a chance Gamla, Uppsala is surely worth a visit. Located 5 kilometres north of Uppsala city centre, it is the Mecca of many Swedish school children who learn about the Vikings in the well presented museum and surrounding area. Outside the museum, one can see the mounds, artificial hills, in which previous great men were buried and also the spot where sacrifices to the gods were made; in fact, historians are still debating whether they also conducted human sacrifices on this site.

The choice of Uppsala as the site for the centre of the Catholic religion was obvious and the transition between the Viking culture and Christianity can be observed if one looks at the Viking runes situated in the garden in front of Universithuset (University house) which is located between the Gustavianum museum and Snerikes nation.

The importance of the connection between Church and university can also be observed by looking at the oldest university building in Uppsala, which is currently the site of ‘Gustavianum – Uppsala University Museum’, located in front of the cathedral’s main entrance. When the university was founded, it consisted of four faculties:

  •      Philosophy – taught in academic circles since ancient Greek times, it was the study of the world, a science before Galileo invented the ‘Scientific Method’ which then distinguished philosophy as we know it today from scientific studies.
  •      Law – to educate future lawyers, judges, bureaucrats and rulers of the land.
  •      Theology – to teach aspiring priests the knowledge and skill set they needed to become an active part of the Church.
  •      Medicine – which started being studied at the beginning of civilization but in late medieval times was studied more methodically in many universities.

These are the four categories mentioned in ‘O Gamla Klang’ an old student song that has it’s original version in  German (O Alte Burschenherrlicheit) a Swedish version of it was written by August Lindh, the founder of Uppsala’s ‘secret’ student society ‘Juvenalorden’, in the early 1900s. This song is normally sang at the end of all gasques/ formal dinners and students from the different categories  stand up and sing their part according to what they study and for the last few verses of the song everyone is standing on their chairs and toasting. Once the song is over people must not sit down again as if they do, it is said that they will not graduate. Everyone follows this rule with the exception of Västergöta Nation members who for some reason have a tradition of sitting down again and singing one more song.

When you tell your friends that you study in Uppsala University, mention some of the above facts. You are after all, part of a small group of students who study in an environment full of quirky traditions and student madness that strongly influences the rest of the city surrounding the university.

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