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San Marcos, University of

San Marcos, University of

University of San Marcos, premier university of colonial South America. Because Spanish colonists in Peru wanted their sons to be eligible for positions that required a university education, the city council of Lima petitioned for a university. Authorized in 1551 by Charles V, the Royal and Pontifical University of San Marcos finally became an endowed secular institution with sixteen academic chairs in the 1570s.

Modeled on the University of Salamanca, the University of San Marcos boasted the five faculties necessary to be a major university: arts (philosophy), theology, medicine, civil law, and canon law. In addition, it initially offered instruction in Quechua, and in 1678 it added a chair of mathematics. The religious orders also sponsored chairs offering instruction in the writings of their most venerated theologians—for example, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine. At its peak, San Marcos had about thirty-five academic chairs. Although religious institutions in Lima offered college-level instruction, only San Marcos was authorized to confer baccalaureate, master's, licentiate, and doctoral degrees.

The faculty of San Marcos long used prescribed texts employed throughout the Hispanic world. In the late eighteenth century, however, some more contemporary authors' works were incorporated into the curriculum as the university sought to regain its former glory after suffering a period of decline.

The intellectual elite of colonial Lima passed through the halls of San Marcos and often taught there. As a focus of intellectual life for much of the viceregal era, the university fulfilled its charge of educating men for service in the clergy or bureaucracy.

In the twenty-first century, the university continues to be considered the most prestigious and selective in Peruvian higher education.

See alsoUniversities: Colonial Spanish America .


John Tate Lanning, Academic Culture in the Spanish Colonies (1940), chap. 1.

Additional Bibliography

Aparicio Quispe, Severo. Los mercedarios en la Universidad San Marcos de Lima. Lima: [s.n.], 1999.

Buford, Nick. The University of San Marcos of Lima in the Eighteenth Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1969.

Valcárcel, Carlos Daniel. San Marcos, universidad decana de América. Lima, [s.n.], 1968.

Williams, Jerry M., ed. Peralta Barnuevo and the Discourse of Loyalty: A Critical Edition of Four Selected Texts. Tempe: ASU Center for Latin American Studies Press, Arizona State University, 1996.

                                      Mark A. Burkholder

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