The Schools of Medieval England

By A. F. Leach | Go to book overview

THE SCHOOLS OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND

CHAPTER I
OUR OLDEST SCHOOL--CANTERBURY

SCHOOLS in England are coeval with the coming of Christianity. Before its introduction a school, whether word or thing, was unknown. Schools no doubt existed in Roman Britain both before the introduction of Christianity and after. For already, in the latter part of the first century, Juvenal relates that eloquent Gauls are teaching the Britons to plead causes and Thule is discussing the establishment of a Rhetoric School. But whatever other institutions of Britain, if any, survived its conversion into England, churches and schools did not.

For 150 years after the Conquest the English remained heathen, and no traces of Roman culture are to be found among them. They held no intercourse, except in war, with the Britons in the west of the island. If any Britons remained in Saxon England, they were a remnant saved as slaves and serfs, and there is no evidence that they remained Christian. For the rest, says the latest investigator of the subject, Professor Oman, "the unconquered Britons of the West and North made no effort to convert their adversaries. . . . The only reference to the English that can be detected in the surviving notes of British Church-Councils is a clause in the Canons of the Synod of Lucus Victoriæ ( 569 A.D.), imposing a penance of thirteen years on a man who shall have acted as guide to the barbarians. Even in later days, in spite of Saxon exiles at British Courts, there is no attempt at conversion. Not one solitary legend survives to hint at such an endeavour."

When, at the end of the sixth century, Christianity came to

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