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About this book

Covering the period c.1530-c.1760, this book analyses the aims, facilities and achievements across all levels of education in England, institutional and informal, acknowledging in context the education situation in the rest of the British Isles, western Europe and North America.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
What constitutes education is a matter of diverse opinion. In the history of education, emphases on its purpose, method and content have always fluctuated with social changes. All communities train their young to behave in conformity with certain social expectations. Communication skills begin to be taught early, first aurally and orally, by talking to the baby or stimulating (or soothing) it with music or other noises, which it is encouraged to repeat, and later to re-create, purposefully, as it begins to understand a meaning to individual words. Philosophers recommended ways of teaching the young as far back as Plato and there has been no lack of theories from his day to ours.
Helen M. Jewell

2. Outline of Developments

Abstract
The curriculum of academic education, along with the Roman alphabet and the Latin language, was first brought to Britain during the Roman occupation. Originally a pagan education for administrative and cultural (including religious) purposes, Roman secular education, in the provinces as at Rome itself, was an elevating, civilising experience aimed at producing a cultured citizen elite capable of participating in the state’s affairs, for example, as magistrates. When the Roman occupation ended, the Latin language survived in Britain in the Christian priesthood, and it received a new lease of life with the sending of the Gregorian mission to the Anglo-Saxons in 597. Anglo-Saxon recruits to the priesthood learned Latin, the language of the Rome-based church, and the art of metre, astronomy and ecclesiastical computation. According to Bede some knew Latin and Greek as well as their native tongue. Thus the two classical Mediterranean civilisations of Greece and Rome and their ancient tongues entered the curriculum of scholarly education in the European offshore islands of Britain. However, though Bede was well educated for the seventh century, he viewed education as cramming in approved learning (‘pouring streams of wholesome learning’ into minds) rather than drawing out the pupil’s potential. The minds were passive receptacles and the desirable education was precensored so that ‘wholesome’ knowledge was selected for the drip feed.
Helen M. Jewell

3. The Aims of Education

Abstract
Late medieval society did not invest in education as such, which in itself casts light on the aims of what educational provision there was. The chief institutional interest in education came from the church, not the state. The church saw basic training in the rudiments of the faith as essential for the souls of Christian individuals, but this did not necessarily extend to literacy, and could remain compartmentalised, so that an individual learned very little from religion to apply to other aspects of experience. By English provincial legislation parish clergy were required to instruct their parishioners four times a year in the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the seven sacraments, virtues, deadly sins and works of mercy. Education in literacy, from the church’s point of view, meant progression in Latin, which was vocationally requisite for all professional clergymen, and so much their monopoly that a reading test in it (the passage set was so commonly the first verse of the fifty-first psalm that this became known as the ‘neck verse’) was given to test those claiming the privilege of clerical status (benefit of clergy) at law, which might save a man from hanging. The purpose of the secular clergy’s education was to produce men who could perform the eight services of the divine office, and those in priests’ orders had to celebrate daily mass and perform other sacraments, such as baptism, as required.
Helen M. Jewell

4. Educational Facilities

Abstract
The layout of this chapter is designed to handle the facilities for learning, taking the opportunities as an age cohort would progress through them; however it is much easier to distinguish elementary, secondary, further and higher education today than it was to separate their equivalents in early modern times, so the subdivisions have a touch of anachronism about them. There was no overarching system decreeing the age at which to proceed from one level to another, and there was overlap.
Helen M. Jewell

5. Educational Achievements

Abstract
Stone argued that most societies are judged by the achievements of their cultural elites, but that what made seventeenth-century England remarkable was the appreciation and practice of cultural activity by ‘the whole of the rural and urban propertied classes’.1 Clearly it is one-sided to judge the achievements of education by the creativity of a tiny cultural elite, but if the focus is widened to take in all the people appreciative of intellectual culture it may embrace a larger body than is normally considered the ‘propertied classes’, an elitist term in itself. In this chapter it is proposed to take four focal points, the clearly cultural elite comprising writers of literature, philosophy and history on the one hand, and their scientific equivalents in mathematics, natural sciences and architecture on the other, then the literate elite of the magistrates and governing classes, then the receptive audience of the written word stretching into lower social ranks, and finally the ebb and flow of basic literacy.
Helen M. Jewell

6. The Broader Perspective: the British Isles, Western Europe and North America

Abstract
The educational patterns in early modern England have now been investigated in some depth, and to place them in perspective it is desirable to consider the situation in the rest of the British Isles, in countries of western Europe, and finally briefly in North America, where European educational traditions were taken by settlers in the seventeenth century.
Helen M. Jewell

7. Conclusions

Abstract
The educational situation towards the end of the early modern period in England seems much closer to us than that pertaining at its beginning, a sign of the degree of ‘modernisation’ occurring during the timespan. In 1500 the educational institutions we can trace were for the elite and dominated by Latin: endowed grammar schools and universities. Even great scholars, however, had to begin by learning individual letters, and we know that the elementary learning of letters and then word reading in the vernacular was quite as far as some children got, some obviously informally taught. Each level was in its own way utilitarian, the elite for professionals, the more basic for ‘mechanical arts and worldly business’.
Helen M. Jewell
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