A Czech and Roman king Charles IV founded the Prague university by a deed of foundation on April 7, 1348 as a first university (studium generale) to the north of the Alps and to the east of Paris. The Charles University belongs to old European universities. It followed the example of the Bolognese and the Parisian universities and in a short time became internationally famous. The university consists of four faculties: faculty of theology, of arts, of law, and of medicine. Not only Czech but also many foreign teachers and students were members of the academic community of the university, especially those from Central European areas for whom the university in Prague became accessible and erudite university of studium generale. Charles´s son and successor Wenceslas IV extended his influence on the university and in 1409 strenghtened also the position of the native members of the academic community by a Kutna Hora Decree. A territorial character of the Prague studium generale was emphasized by the protest departure of a part of masters and scholars from the Prague university. Shortly after the Prague university influenced by the Hussite movement preceding the European Reformation changed its character. The university rector, Master Jan Hus, became very influential at the university. In following social and political revolution the university was reduced to one faculty- faculty of arts (artium)- as a prototype of future territorial reformation academies.
He created a cultural metropolis where besides a court center (with scholars Joannes Kepler and Tycho de Brahe)also a university erudition was developing.
At the beginning of the 17th century the University was considerably influenced by political provincial estates which were involved in the antihapsburg opposition whose political representatives stirred up a conflict at the beginning of the first European war ( the Thirty Years´ War in 1618-1648). Their defeat caused a radical change at the university. A victorious Roman emperor and Czech king Ferdinand III amalgamated a Carolingian university and a Jesuit university in Clementinum (whose beginnings go back to 1556) into a university with a new name Charles-Ferdinand University (the name survived until 1918). This university re-established all four faculties which it had consisted of before the Hussite movement and was growing from a former free corporation of intellectuals into a public educational institution and this process was rounded off with reforms of the absolutist regime of the emperor Joseph II in the 1780s.
The university started to grow into a modern university during the reforms in 1848/49. It was gradually changing into a public institute educating a professional intelligentsia class. In 1882, in the period of a high national political movement, the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague was divided into two universities: Czech and German.
At the turn of the 20th century have both universities reached a high scientific level. At the German university there worked e.g. professor Albert Einstein. At the Czech university there were excellent personalities who played an important part in a state-political emancipation process, especially professor Thomas G. Masaryk who became first president of an independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. The Charles University- a name of the Czech university in an independent state- took advantage of new circumstances to develop a scientific research and some of its results achieved a world standards. We should remember the discoveries of professor Jaroslav Heyrovsky in the field of polarography which brought him a Nobel prize in 1959.
The Hitlerian occupation of Czechoslovakia caused a terrible disaster and loss. After student demonstrations on October 28, 1939 and during a funeral of a medical student Jan Opletal were the Czech universities closed down on November 17, 1939, and a persecution of students and university teachers followed.
The Charles University could take up its activity after the World War Two. The German university in Prague which joined the association of Reich universities in 1939 came to an end simultaneously with the Nazi Reich.
Free development of activity at Charles University was interrupted after a communist coup in February 1948. The regime subordinated the education and research to an ideological and political control for a long time, the international relations and the impulses of science were affected. Students loyal to a tradition of liberty principles protested against a totalitarian system on November 17, 1989 and initiated removal of the regime.
Supported by international cooperation a modern university life developed rapidly. The Charles University keeps developing a systematic research cooperation and takes part in both European and international programs.