The Growth of English Education, 1348-1648: A Social and Cultural History

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Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990 - Education - 286 pages

This book demonstrates that the important educational developments of the Elizabethan and early Stuart periods, which are often portrayed as new and revolutionary in nature, were in fact the culmination of an evolutionary process more than two centuries old. It also shows that popular literacy was considerably more widespread by the time of Spenser and Shakespeare than most recent studies suggest. The book treats the long period 1348-1648 as a unit by discounting the importance of the year 1485, which marked the end of one dynasty and the beginning of another but had no discernible effect on educational and cultural conditions. Additionally, it argues that the massive changes of the final years of Henry VIII, which momentarily disrupted the universities and the grammar schools of the realm, were beneficial in the long run, since local energies were thereby unleashed and greater public support for educational institutions of all kinds soon materialized. A period of steady growth continued until the 1640s and 1650s, when the bitter experiences of the Civil War and rancorous arguments about the role of the universities and the grammar schools in precipitating the outbreak of hostilities caused the mainstream of public opinion to question the efficacy of advanced education, which increasingly came to be seen as a threat to established values and traditions. Thereafter an era of decline began that lasted until the mid-nineteenth century. Finally, the book treats the important contributions made by both clerics and women during the long period 1348-1648. Although laymen were the greatest beneficiaries of the steady widening of educational opportunity during those three centuries, clerics and women provided most of the funds, without which many fewer colleges, schools, and scholarships for poor boys would have been established. They did so because of their belief that improved education was necessary for the further spread of the Christian message.

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The Black Death and the Crisis
New Educational Institutions
The Universities During the Elizabethan Period

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