Education in Early Modern England by Helen M. Jewell (auth.)

By Helen M. Jewell (auth.)

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The universities, with Winchester and Eton, were exempt from the collegiate dissolutions of 1548. One unwelcome development from the more innovative humanist teaching at the universities had been a spread of heretical opinions among scholars and students. Lutheranism was active at Cambridge by 1520, and ironically some of the scholars there transferred the heresy to Wolsey's Cardinal College in the mid-1520s. At the Reformation the universities were forced to yield to royal supremacy and to become powerhouses of the approved religion, controlled by oath-taking and royal visitation and injunctions.

Cressy believes the period 1660-80 saw one of the surges against illiteracy. The illiteracy rate of London tradesmen and craftsmen was down to 13 per cent in the 1690s, while women's illiteracy in the capital declined from 78 per cent in the 1670s to 64 per cent in the 1680s and 52 per cent in the 1690s. 'By the end of the Stuart period the English had achieved a level of literacy unknown in the past and unmatched elsewhere in early modern Europe. m Between basic literacy and the old grammar-school tradition came experiments with modern subjects directly relevant to employment.

Samuel Harmar's Vox Populi or Glostershere's Desire (1642) contained a cry for general schooling over the land, and John Dury in The Reformed School (1649) gave a mix of religious and economic justifications for education including girls. While theorists were able to publish innovatory suggestions they were inconsistent (to twentieth-century eyes) in espousing mixtures of radical and conservative policies. Thus the radical Polish-born reformer Samuel Hartlib (d. 1690) in Considerations tending to the happy accomplishment of England's Reformation (1647) preserved the class system in his scheme: the schools should be of four several kinds or degrees.

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