Primary school education

It would be impossible to enter into all the details of the development of schools in the early modern period. They differed widely in their statutes, in their funding (whether from church benefices, community contributions, individual families, or religious legacies), in their teachers (whether laymen, clerics, or members of congregations), and in the nature of attendance (state-imposed or not, co-educational or not). One should note that even in less literate parts of Europe, such as eighteenth-century Castile, surprisingly large numbers of school books were published. The cartillas (reading primers containing the main Christian prayers) published by the Valladolid cathedral chapter had annual print-runs of 300,000 to 400,000 copies throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. Between 1740 and 1761, the confraternity ofMadridbooksellers published more than 500,000 copies of Gerónimo de Rosales's Caton christiano, a religious study book also used as a primer. These printed works were presumably used for teaching in many different ways in schools, homes, and catechism classes.7 Even though a considerable number of these works were destined for the Americas, there can be no doubt that wherever they were used, they helped achieve a certain level of minimal literacy.

Three points can be made concerning the operation of primary schools during this period. First, one should not overlook links to the general determination of political, municipal, and ecclesiastical authorities to shape Christian civility and eradicate begging and vagrancy. The general movement in the seventeenth century to create workhouses, hôpitaux généraux, or Zuchthauser sought to remove the poor from general society and - laziness being the mother of vice - to put them to work. It was not simply a question of economic need, but a desire to create a moral order within the walls of the establishment: the obligation to work, together with penitence and a control of the emotions, would offer the poor a means to salvation. But education was also included within this scheme: schoolmasters provided the hospital's 'adopted' children with a basic schooling and religious grounding, while master craftsmen taught them practical skills. Moreover, the effort to lock-up and restrain vagabonds was accompanied by an intense effort to give instruction to the poor in general. The same devout circles (nobles, magistrates, office-holders, merchants) simultaneously supported both the workhouse 'lock-up' and free charity schools. In Catholic France from the second half of the seventeenth century, these tendencies were accentuated under the influence of the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, the Marian congregations founded by the Jesuits, and

0 0

Post a comment