catechisms given by pastors and regents are never to teach language, but to enable religion to be understood and retained, and this can and should be done only in the language heard and spoken by the people themselves'.2
In Lutheran Sweden, the learning of Christian truths tookplace either in the church or in the family, with the family transformed through the logic of the universal priesthood into a teaching institution. Indeed, the ecclesiastical law of 1686 ruled that every individual should be able to read and understand the Bible. Even children, agricultural workers and servants should learn to see with their own eyes God's commandments in His Holy Scripture. The immense literacy campaign that lasted from the 1660s through to the beginning of the nineteenth century was based both on the Hustlava (a sign hung on the wall to remind the Christian of his duties and obligations) and on the Book of Psalms, which between 1695 and 1819 went through no fewer than 250 editions with a distribution of over 1.5 million copies. This massive movement focused solely on the teaching of reading, not in school but in the home. During examinations preceding communion, the pastors of Lutheran deaneries regularly checked reading ability as well as knowledge of the catechism. According to the oldest surviving registers, three conclusions may be drawn. First, the ability to read, which about 40 per cent of the Swedish population possessed around 1660, rose to 70 per cent towards 1690 and reached 80 to 90 per cent after 1750. Second, as early as the 1680s, a sequence was established where learning to read was to precede memorization of the catechism: thus individuals learned their faith from a book. Lastly, during this same period, the difference in reading ability between girls and boys in the youngest age groups largely disappeared. 3
The well documented, if exceptional, case of Sweden leads us to speculate on the cultural frontiers running across Europe, frontiers which cannot be explained by differences in religious denomination. Studies carried out over the last thirty years in various parts of Europe document the progress in literacy in the states of north-west Europe, including England, the Low Countries, the Rhineland and north-eastern France. Clearly, the percentages obtained are not precise, since they are based on sources that are not always comparable, and they may conceal large differences within the relevant regions between town and country, men and women and among various professions. In rural areas, marked differences are apparent between the enclosed bocage regions -divided and isolated and with fewer major routes of communication - and the cereal-growing plains, more open both to military invasion and to the spread of the written word. Nevertheless, on the whole, north-west Europe was more
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