Financed by British spoils from eastern Maine in the War of 1812, modelled on the University of Edinburgh, and shaped by Scottish democratic education tradition, Dalhousie was unique among Nova Scotia colleges in being the only liberal, nonsectarian institution of higher learning. Except for a brief flicker of life (1838-43), for the first forty-five years no students or professors entered Dalhousie's halls a reflection in part of the intense religious loyalties embedded in Nova Scotian politics. The college building itself was at different times a cholera hospital and a Halifax community centre. Finally launched in 1863 and by 1890 embracing the disciplines of law and medicine, Dalhousie owed its driving force to the Presbyterians, retaining a double loyalty to their ethos of hard work and devotion to learning and to a board, staff, and student body of mixed denominations. P.B. Waite enlivens his descriptions of the life of the university with evocative portrayals of governors, professors, and students, as well as sketches of the social and economic development of Halifax.
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