Literacy in Early Modern Europe: Culture and Education, 1500-1800

Literacy in Early Modern Europe: Culture and Education, 1500-1800

Literacy in Early Modern Europe: Culture and Education, 1500-1800

Literacy in Early Modern Europe: Culture and Education, 1500-1800

Synopsis

Literacy in Early Modern Europe is an analysis of that momentous change in European society from widespread illiteracy in 1500 to mass literacy by 1800. The book explores the importance of education, literacy and popular culture in Europe during this critical transitional period and reveals their relationship to political, economic and social structures as both more complex and revealing than is usually believed.

Excerpt

This volume is an attempt to fill a considerable gap in the historical writing on the social history of education and literacy in Europe. Most countries have histories of national education, though some were written as early as the 1900s and many treat the period before the Enlightenment in a cursory manner. The best modern studies branch into reading, writing, the uses of literacy and the importance of oral culture but still deal with only a single country. At the same time they tend to emphasise particular aspects of schooling and literacy which have special relevance to one country, such as the struggle between church and state for control of education or the development of nationalism through vernacular publishing, and do not pick out the common features of developments across Europe or the way in which one nation's experience differs from another. An important gap therefore exists in the literature between Carlo Cipolla's slender Literacy and development in the west (1969) and Harvey Graff's monumental and densely-informative Legacies of literacy (1987).

This book was substantially written before the appearance of Graff's book in the spring of 1987 and differs from it in important respects. First, it covers a briefer time period but deals with eastern as well as western Europe, using a wider range of literature in languages other than English and French. Second, it treats education and literacy in a thematic way rather than dealing with developments country by country, and it contains more on education, popular culture and the uses of literacy than Graff's volume. The aim is to provide a clear and interesting outline of the structures and trends in education, literacy and culture, c. 1500-c. 1800 for an undergraduate audience, and to bring a topic which is often treated peripherally in mainstream . . .

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