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About this book

This concise study covers the development of education throughout Great Britain from the Industrial Revolution to the Great War: a period in which urbanization, industrialization and population growth posed huge social and political problems, and education became one of the fiercest areas of conflict in society.

Table of Contents

1. Elementary Education to the 1860s

Abstract
Eighteenth-century Britain was by no means bereft of the means of education. From 1696 rural landowners in Scotland had been legally required to provide a school in each parish and in Scottish towns burgh schools were maintained from municipal funds. Though no statutory obligation to provide schooling existed in England and Wales before 1870, by 1750 schools of some kind were within geographical reach of all but comparatively few children. In England and Wales there was a numerous and diverse array of elementary schools, some private, others connected with parish churches, as well as charity schools, private middle-class schools and endowed grammar schools. In Scotland, particularly in the towns, charity and private schools existed alongside the burgh and parish schools. Most of the Scottish public schools were, in practice, mainly elementary but, unlike the vast majority of elementary schools south of the border, might also provide post-elementary instruction, including mathematics and Latin, and send boys at 15 or younger to the universities.
W. B. Stephens

2. School Attendance and Literacy: 1750 to the Later Nineteenth Century

Abstract
Measurement of school attendance before it became compulsory from the 1870s is difficult. A plausible assessment, however, suggests a day-school attendance rate for England and Wales c.1750 of some 4 per cent of total population, while for Scotland an incomplete survey of some sixty lowland and highland parishes points to percentages varying from almost 8 to nearly 13.1 Table 1 shows the proportions of the population at day school in the nineteenth century, deduced from contemporary educational surveys. These figures lack the validity of modern statistics, since a ‘pupil at school’ before the 1870s cannot be taken as a homogeneous unit. Children attended school for periods ranging from weeks to years and then often erratically. Some left at age 4 or 5, others stayed till 10 or over; some might attend for the same number of years as others but at ages at which they may have been more likely to have benefited from instruction. The extent and nature of such variables differed topographically and chronologically, while the curriculum and the quality of tuition also varied considerably. Some pupils, for instance, were taught reading but not writing. Children not recorded as at day school at any particular time included some who had previously attended and others who would attend later.
W. B. Stephens

3. Secondary and Higher Education to the 1860s

Abstract
Before the mid nineteenth century the concept of elementary and secondary schooling as sequential stages of education was undeveloped. In England and Wales it was usual to distinguish rather between ‘middle-class’ schooling (for the better-off) and ‘elementary’ schooling (for the working classes). In Scotland the tradition was for common schools not distinguished by level of instruction. Historians, however, have customarily used the term ‘secondary’ to refer to schooling of children from age 10 or so, as well as to the education of the middle and upper classes generally, and that convention is followed here.
W. B. Stephens

4. Education, Science and Industrialization, 1750s–1850s

Abstract
Social scientists have suggested that for a national economy to achieve self-sustaining industrial growth, some 30–40 per cent of its population need to be literate, and that the British Industrial Revolution exemplifies this: literacy rates in both England and Scotland had crossed that threshold by 1750.1 Such a vaguely defined concept is, however, of dubious value when applied to British economic expansion in this period. It is not evident why, even if applicable to twentieth-century economies (which is uncertain), it should pertain to eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century conditions. Evidence for measuring economic growth rates in that period is often less than adequate and the chronology of industrialization contentious, and while signature evidence is useful for spatial and chronological comparison of levels of elementary education, it is rudimentary as an absolute measure (Chapter 2). Moreover, by the mid eighteenth century most nations in north-west Europe had literacy levels as good as or better than Britain’s without experiencing an industrial revolution.2
W. B. Stephens

5. Elementary Education from the 1860s to 1914

Abstract
Before the mid nineteenth century British governments were suspicious of bureaucratic centralization and state intervention, and felt it unnecessary to emulate the mass system of state schooling adopted by some European countries for the purpose of strengthening centralized government, promoting national unity, encouraging economic development and buttressing ruling élites. In Britain the ruling classes felt little need for a supportive bureaucracy, while national unity and economic prosperity were achieved with a minimum of state interference. It is true that, in Scotland, belief in the national educational system inaugurated in the seventeenth century persisted, with tradition giving the Church (in lieu of a Scottish state) an intimate role in schooling and with the universities regarded as state institutions. But England was the dominant partner and preferred to regard secondary schools and universities as independent institutions and to leave elementary schooling to voluntary effort with limited and indirect state support.1
W. B. Stephens

6. Secondary and Higher Education from the 1860s to 1914

Abstract
This period is noteworthy for some convergence in the nature and organization of secondary schooling north and south of the border, yet the Scottish experience remained sufficiently distinctive for it to be treated here separately.
W. B. Stephens

7. Science, Technology, Education and the Economy from the 1850s to 1914

Abstract
There is a broad division between historians who link apparent defects in education (particularly scientific and technical education) in this period with a perceived decline in Britain’s economic fortunes, and others who doubt whether, in fact, any avoidable decline occurred, whether any particular link existed between education and economic performance and whether, anyway, there is not (from the point of view of its contribution to the economy) more to praise than to blame in contemporary educational provision.1
W. B. Stephens

8. The Growth of a Literate Culture

Abstract
The continuous rise in the proportions of brides and grooms able to write their names in the marriage register (outlined in earlier chapters) is not in itself evidence that those who signed in one decade were any better educated than those who did so in earlier ones. It can indicate only that progressively more people in their late 20s were attaining the same basic level of education. Yet common sense suggests that the growing proportions of each generation of the population receiving years of formal schooling cannot but have had a beneficial effect on the quality of education in the nation as a whole. One likely manifestation of this is the extent to which those who had learned their ABC put the skill of reading to use by becoming active readers. This chapter seeks to explore this, and to survey the various factors, other than formal education, which were involved in the development of a society in which the printed word became a significant part of the daily life of the various social classes.
W. B. Stephens
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