Education in England

Preliminary pages
Introduction, Contents, Preface
Chapter 1 Up to 1500
Chapter 2 1500-1600
Renaissance and Reformation
Chapter 3 1600-1660
Chapter 4 1660-1750
Chapter 5 1750-1860
Towards mass education
Chapter 6 1860-1900
A state system of education
Chapter 7 1900-1923
Secondary education for some
Chapter 8 1923-1939
From Hadow to Spens
Chapter 9 1939-1945
Educational reconstruction
Chapter 10 1945-1951
Labour and the tripartite system
Chapter 11 1951-1964
The wind of change
Chapter 12 1964-1970
The golden age?
Chapter 13 1970-1974
Applying the brakes
Chapter 14 1974-1979
Progressivism under attack
Chapter 15 1979-1990
Thatcher and the New Right
Chapter 16 1990-1997
John Major: more of the same
Chapter 17 1997-2007
Tony Blair and New Labour
Chapter 18 2007-2010
Brown and Balls: mixed messages
Chapter 19 2010-2015
Gove v The Blob
Chapter 20 2015-2018

Organisation of this chapter

Political background
   The early Stuarts 1603-1649
   The Commonwealth 1649-1660
Religious background
   Millenarian eschatology

The Puritans and education
Universal education
Teacher training
Key figures
   Francis Bacon
   John Comenius
   Samuel Hartlib
   John Dury
   William Petty
   John Milton
   Charles Hoole
   James Harrington
   Gerrard Winstanley

The schools
The grammar-school curriculum
The education of girls
The teaching profession
Schools in Wales, Ireland and Scotland

The universities
The 1640s
The 1650s



This is the new version of Education in England: a history, which has been completely rewritten and updated. To find the period you wish to read about, please check the new chapters list in the left-hand column.

If you have any comments about this new version, or spot any errors,
please let me know. Contact details are here.

Derek Gillard
16 May 2018

Education in England: a history
Derek Gillard

first published June 1998
this version published May 2018

copyright Derek Gillard 2018
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Chapter 3 : 1600-1660



The sixteenth century had seen significant developments in the provision of education in England, brought about largely as a result of the Reformation. Legislation designed to reduce the power of the church had also 'cleared the ground for the reorganizing of schools and colleges into a more co-ordinated system of education' (Chitty 1992:2).

In the first half of the seventeenth century the Puritans sought to continue the process of reform. There was a huge amount of debate about the nature and purpose of education, and many proposals were made for the improvement and expansion of schools and colleges, especially during the brief period of the Commonwealth:

In republican England after 1640 - when king and court had been swept away, the House of Lords abolished as useless and dangerous, bishops banished from the church - parliament seriously considered plans for educational reform on Baconian lines. Once more, as in Edward's day, confiscated ecclesiastical endowments were turned to the use of schools and there were innovations at the universities where colleges, suitably purged of drones, were sometimes furnished with enthusiasts for science (Simon 1966:396).
Unfortunately, when the monarchy was restored in 1660 many of the reforms were 'too closely associated with puritan and republican ideas to survive' (Chitty 1992:2).

Political background

The early Stuarts 1603-1649

Elizabeth had been the last of Henry VIII's descendants and, being childless, the last Tudor monarch. During the final year of her life, as her health declined, her chief minister Sir Robert Cecil had sought to ensure a smooth succession by conducting secret negotiations with her Stuart cousin, James VI of Scotland, and he was proclaimed James I of England and Ireland a few hours after her death on 24 March 1603. The Stuart monarchs would prove themselves to be largely arrogant, incompetent and inept.

James I (1603-1625) was generally popular but suffered continuing threats from Catholics (including the Gunpowder Plot of 1605) and conflicts with parliament, especially over his proposal to unite England and Scotland as a single country. Although the long war with Spain was brought to an end, James found himself caught between the Spanish, who continued to demand freedom of worship for Catholics in England, and the Privy Council, which urged him to show even less tolerance towards them.

The 'Golden Age' of Elizabethan literature and drama continued under James, with writers such as William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson and Sir Francis Bacon. James himself wrote several books. In The True Law of Free Monarchies, published in 1598 while he was King of Scotland, he set out his views on the 'divine right of kings'. He commissioned the Authorised Version of the Bible, which was published in 1611.

James' eldest son (Henry) died in 1612 so he was succeeded by his second son, Charles.

Charles I (1625-1649) inherited from his father a strong belief in the divine right of kings. His arrogance led to conflicts with parliament and unpopularity in the country - especially when he attempted to levy taxes without parliamentary consent. He was much more pro-Catholic than his father (and indeed married a Roman Catholic), which caused problems with the Puritans and Calvinists. He was regarded as a tyrannical absolute monarch.

William Laud (1573-1645) became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633. He sought to enforce adherence to what we would now call 'Anglo-Catholic' doctrine and ritual, in line with the preferences of Charles I. Puritans regarded him as a formidable and dangerous opponent. He was charged with treason in 1640 and executed in 1645.

Charles's intransigence led eventually to the English Civil Wars of 1642-1651. Following his defeat in 1645, he refused to accept demands for a constitutional monarchy, managed to escape captivity and attempted to forge an alliance with Scotland. But by the end of 1648 Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army had gained control of England and Charles was tried, convicted, and executed for high treason in January 1649. The monarchy was abolished and England was declared a republic. Fighting between royalists ('Cavaliers') and republicans ('Roundheads') continued until September 1651.

The Commonwealth 1649-1660

The 'Rump' parliament was forcibly dissolved in 1653 and Oliver Cromwell was declared Lord Protector. When he died in 1658 his son Richard assumed the title, but internal divisions among the republicans forced his resignation after just seven months. The Grandees of the New Model Army reinstalled the Rump parliament, but that, too, lasted less than a year.

During the Commonwealth, the Church of England was retained but episcopacy was suppressed and the 1558 Act of Uniformity was repealed. The Rump parliament passed many restrictive laws which sought to regulate moral behaviour, including the closure of theatres and the enforcement of Sabbath observance.

Watson argues that the period of the Commonwealth 'stands out prominently as that of the English educational Renaissance'. Control of education passed, 'in every direction' (Watson 1921a:1528), from the church to the state.

Calls for educational reform were inspired, at least in part, by a desire to improve the lot of the poor, who had suffered badly in the economic depressions of the 1630s and faced new problems in the 1640s and 1650s, including the failure of the harvest in five consecutive years.

Puritans called for a broad range of reforms including provision of technological and agricultural education, a system of schools to educate all children, and more financial aid for deserving students. 'These reforms, unlike those calling for poor relief alone, could have been of lasting value as a means to better the status of the lower classes if they had been widely implemented' (Greaves 1969:48).

Religious background

As in the sixteenth century, religion played a central role in the events of the seventeenth. It had a profound influence on the development of educational philosophy and provision.

The protestants who emerged from the Reformation were not unified in their beliefs, their practices or their view of the world. Various factions can be broadly identified, though 'any attempt to define the terms sectary, Puritan, and Anglican precisely is exceptionally difficult' (Greaves 1969:4).

At one extreme were the Anglicans, who believed in the state church and the episcopacy. Their worship was liturgical, 'dignified by the use of clerical dress and symbolic gestures' (Greaves 1969:5).

At the other extreme were the sectaries, who wanted nothing to do with the established church and criticised the educational system as part of their general discontent with the entire social structure. They were especially critical of the fact that the universities continued to serve mainly the privileged classes. 'What the sectaries wanted was not professionalism but lay intellectualism' (Greaves 1969:137).

In between these two, and merging with them on either side, were the Puritans, who were also divided into various factions.

On the one hand were moderate Puritans, some of whom had 'attained prestigious positions in the universities and, through them, often in church and state' (Greaves 1969:6). Their reforming zeal, therefore, 'tended to mellow into a complacent conservatism' (Greaves 1969:6).

On the other hand, the more extreme puritan groups were anti-intellectual and anti-university, following a tradition which went back to the Elizabethan sectaries. 'After 1649 this was mainly represented by the Levellers and Diggers who spoke for the socially and educationally deprived and had strong urban support, especially in London' (Lawson and Silver 1973:160).

While there were fierce arguments between all these groups about ecclesiastical, theological and political issues, they all agreed that social reforms were needed. The sectaries and more liberal Puritans demanded revolutionary reforms, 'often forcing the more conservative Puritans to defend a social structure they themselves realized needed changing' (Greaves 1969:6).

Thus a 'revolutionary ferment ... gripped England in the decades between 1640 and 1660' (Greaves 1969:3). The reforms demanded by the revolutionaries were not purely political:

The social structure of England was subjected to withering criticism from a host of zealous critics who demanded a new educational system, a complete overhaul of England's legal structure, a reordering of religious affairs, care for the poor, and a more equitable economic basis for society. Most of the criticisms and proposed remedies had some merit; others were simply the unrealistic visions of utopian dreamers, divorced from the harsh realities of mid-seventeenth century life (Greaves 1969:3).
Nonetheless, 'It is not an exaggeration to claim that between 1626 and 1660, a philosophical revolution was accomplished in England' (Webster 1975:xiii).

Millenarian eschatology

A key belief of many Puritans was that God was about to establish his kingdom on earth, a kingdom which would last for a thousand years. Bacon had called it 'The Great Instauration'. In order to prepare people for this event, it was necessary 'to contemplate education on a scale even more ambitious than that envisaged by the educational pioneers of the Reformation' (Webster 1975:101). Thus the Czech Moravian pastor John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) called for 'Universal Schools' to provide education 'not only for all nations and tongues and orders of men, but for every single individual to rise out of the darkness of ignorance and barbarism' (quoted in Webster 1975:101).

It was this 'millenarian eschatology' - 'the belief that God had sanctioned the Reformation and would ultimately grant complete victory for the reformed churches over the catholic forces of Antichrist' (Webster 1975:1) - which led to the civil wars and the removal of the king:

The parliamentarians entered into civil war convinced that their efforts were part of a preordained cosmic plan, which would terminate with the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Puritans of all shades of opinion rationalised their situation; they conveyed to the public the impression that the nation was entering into a holy war, in which the royalist enemy represented the forces of Antichrist (Webster 1975:2).
Equally important was the Puritans' belief in the revival of learning:
The recent reaction against the corrupt philosophy of the heathens and the search for a new philosophy based on experience appeared to seventeenth-century protestants to be thoroughly consistent with the religious reformation. The invention of printing and of gunpowder, and particularly the voyages of discovery, seemed to herald a revival of learning which was seen as thoroughly consistent with the envisaged utopian paradise and indeed capable of providing the means whereby the utopian conditions would be realised (Webster 1975:1).
It was against this background that educational philosophy blossomed in the seventeenth century, as theorists 'explored the neglected regions of early childhood and adult life' and 'paid attention to the widest range of pedagogical problems' (Webster 1975:103).

The Puritan reformers realised that they would only succeed with the support of parliament, and they did manage to gain some sympathy for their aims during the period of the Commonwealth: 'the necessity of intervention in education was accepted in principle' (Webster 1975:114). However, their proposals for the complete reorganisation of education, the destruction of scholasticism and the introduction of universal education were 'too ambitious for the taste of the new rulers' and 'the state fell back on the traditional form of participation in education, regulating practitioners and institutions according to political and religious tests' (Webster 1975:114).

This led to deep rifts among the puritan educators, with reformers arguing that educational reconstruction was necessary for the creation of the millennial state. 'The debate was fiercest over the universities, which, to the reformers, were symbols of an alien intellectual and religious order' (Webster 1975:115).

The Puritans and education

Dissatisfied with the traditional grammar schools and universities, the Puritans drew up 'a comprehensive range of school, college, and academy proposals in which the sciences and technology increasingly took precedence over linguistic subjects' (Webster 1975:207). These proposals 'caused considerable offence to the academic establishment and were treated as a form of subversive criticism' (Webster 1975:207).

Interest in education was not limited to the Puritans, however. There was much lively debate and London became a centre of interest in all things educational:

Londoners grew accustomed to discussing anything and everything and there was a growing demand for reading-matter. While the provincial towns remained under the tutelage of the gentry, country gentlemen themselves were largely dependent on London for books and in London it was the bourgeoisie that set the tone (Simon 1966:385).
During Elizabeth's reign the Inns of Court had often been thought of as a university, but in the early seventeenth century George Buck (c1560-1622) argued that it was the City of London itself that deserved the title 'The Third University of England' (Simon 1966:388). All the arts and sciences were now being taught, 'not in an academy confined to gentlemen, nor within four walls, but in the city at large and in some branches very much open to citizens' (Simon 1966:389-90). There were groups concerned with promoting research and publishing their findings, and this led to the 'development of a scientific attitude' (Simon 1966:390).

For some, education was about practicalities. London merchants were interested in the study of languages, mathematics and astronomy, geography and mapmaking. The great overseas trading companies were 'the main employers of mathematicians and the first practising scientists' (Simon 1966:387).

But for the Puritans, education was important because they wanted the Bible to be read as widely as possible so that people would be ready for the 'Great Instauration'.

They had invested in schools since around the 1560s, but their influence came to a head during the revolution of the 1640s and 1650s. During these two decades, 'militant puritanism swept away the monarchy, the House of Lords and the bishops' (Lawson and Silver 1973:153), and the country was governed by a puritan parliament, the army and the Lord Protector. Education, along with religion and politics, was 'endlessly debated and reforming ideas circulated as never before' (Lawson and Silver 1973:153).

The abolition of the Court of Star Chamber in 1640 allowed the propagation of anti-establishment views and led to a flood of pamphlets and tracts. The inspiration for many of these came from Francis Bacon, who had

helped to undermine the respect paid to authority and custom by assailing traditional Aristotelian scholasticism and urging close observation of the actual world by experiment and induction (Lawson and Silver 1973:153).
The reforming ideas of Comenius, who visited England in 1641, were also influential. One of the puritans who invited him was Samuel Hartlib, the Polish-born merchant and philanthropist, who became 'the chief disseminator of Comenian ideas in England' (Lawson and Silver 1973:154).
Comenius believed that the end of education is the comprehension of all nature ('pansophia') through reason, the senses and revelation, and that education should be extended to everybody through a system of graded schools in all towns and villages, using reformed teaching methods and textbooks (Lawson and Silver 1973:154).
In their many publications between 1640 and 1660, the puritans expressed their discontent with the existing provision of education and put forward proposals for reform. The best-known - 'and least original' (Lawson and Silver 1973:154) - of these publications was Milton's tract Of Education, written at Hartlib's suggestion and published in 1644.

Most of the puritan reformers - including Hartlib and his associate John Dury - were themselves products of the school and university system which they now criticised, and some had also been schoolmasters or dons. But there were other more radical critics who appear to have had little formal education. These included Gerrard Winstanley, a tradesman who became leader of the 'Diggers', and Richard Overton and William Walwyn - 'discontented younger sons of middle-class families whose schooling had ended with apprenticeship' (Lawson and Silver 1973:154) - who led the 'Levellers'.

Universal education

Although the puritans were anxious to reform society as a whole, their most notable proposals were for a compulsory, free and universal state educational system.

In one form or another these were advanced not only by utopian visionaries like Winstanley and extreme democrats like Overton, but also by Hartlib and Dury and their associates, influential and well-established men such as the London merchant Henry Robinson, William Dell, master of Caius College, and William Petty, the economist (Lawson and Silver 1973:154).
The Levellers demanded sufficient free schools to ensure universal literacy, and Petty proposed a system of Ergastula literaria, or 'literary work-houses' for all children aged seven and above, so that no one should be excluded from education because of poverty or class, 'for hereby it hath come to pass that many are now holding the plough, which might have been fit to steer the state' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:155).

Gerrard Winstanley urged district administrations to attend to the education and vocational training of all children, and Henry Robinson petitioned for the establishment of a state system of schools to provide free education for all boys and girls. He also insisted that 'the nation's maritime obligations rendered it essential that all children should be taught to swim' (Webster 1975:211).

In 1653 a blueprint for a national educational system was presented to the Committee for the Advancement of Learning. Based on work by Hartlib - who saw himself as the official parliamentary agent for educational affairs - and Dury, it set out plans for 'a complete system of education, embracing research, teacher training, inspection, schools and workhouses for all social classes and both sexes' (Webster 1975:210). Its highest priority was for the establishment of Common Schools and Mechanical Schools to serve the educational needs of the lower classes.

Petty and Dury also proposed the setting up of 'Noble Schools'. The idea was to narrow the educational gap between the upper and lower classes. The Noble Schools were to build on the Vernacular School foundation, 'developing each subject to a higher level and introducing a wider range of topics in the greater time available for studies' (Webster 1975:213). They would also be expected to parallel the Mechanical Schools in providing appropriate vocational training for older pupils, replacing a university education.

The proposed curriculum of the Noble Schools was non-humanistic; its content was 'determined according to the puritan social ethic' and its methods were 'consistent with the new psychological theories of learning' (Webster 1975:216).

However, the plan for Noble Schools faced a considerable challenge:

Whereas the proposals for Common and Mechanical Schools were directed to parliament, as the agency required to finance educational expansion, the plans for Noble Schools were primarily addressed to the educated public. Great skill would have been required to convince this audience to abandon its customary educational habits, to embrace institutions having little in common with grammar schools or universities and employing a pedagogy suited equally to the needs of the lower classes (Webster 1975:213-4).


With regard to the content of elementary education, puritan reformers 'followed tradition in designating reading, writing and arithmetic as the first requirements for Common Schools' (Webster 1975:211). The curriculum was also to include 'a description of the natural world, the history of civilisation and Christianity, elementary rules of reasoning, the principles of natural justice and the constitutional history of England' (Webster 1975:211).

Puritans criticised the traditional curriculum and teaching methods of the grammar schools and universities as being too concerned with words. They wanted education to be about the real world. Thus the schoolmaster George Snell, who dedicated to Dury and Hartlib his book The Right Teaching of Useful Knowledge, to fit scholars for some honest profession (1649), wrote:

Our English youths may no longer be taught to be empty nominalists and verbalists only and to have no knowledge of the necessary things and matters ... but ... be realists and materialists, to know the very things and matters themselves (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:155).
Others called for more mathematical and scientific studies in the universities, and for more technical and vocational training for trades and agriculture.


Comenius and his followers argued the importance of sensory perception in the education of young children. In his book A Child's Patrimony, Hezekiah Woodward argued that 'Nothing comes into the understanding in a natural way but through the door of the senses' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:156). In 1658 Comenius produced the first illustrated school book, the Orbis Sensualium Pictus, an English version of which was published a year later by Charles Hoole, who also recommended 'game-like visual aids of various kinds for teaching reading in the petty school' (Lawson and Silver 1973:156).


The Comenians were also concerned about the brutality of punishment in schools. Thomas Grantham, who ran a private school in the City of London, deplored

the misery that youth groans under in common schools, their pains great, the severity of the master intolerable, schools more like Bridewell than seminaries of learning (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:156).
And George Snell declared that
Slavish correction with the whip breedeth in the corrected a base and abject spirit, a foul Bridewell face, bitter passions, a dogged ungentle disposition, a very hatred against the school, the teacher, and against learning, which hatred being once rooted is seldom afterwards removed from the heart (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:156-7).

Teacher training

Such complaints led puritans to demand better teachers. In 1648 William Petty argued that 'the business of education be not, as now, committed to the worst and unworthiest of men; but that it be seriously studied and practised by the best and ablest persons (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:157).

Similarly, George Snell argued that

Though the unworthiness of many presuming to teach hath cast some aspersion upon the profession, yet without doubt they who set the foundation stones of all godliness, morality, literature and language ought for estimation to hold the next place of dignity to the best ministers of the Divine Word (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:157).
Puritan educational literature emphasised the complementary relationship of the minister and the teacher, a partnership which required greater parity of status. In order to achieve this, the reformers aimed to improve the quality and status of schoolmasters by providing teacher-training colleges.

In 1649 Cromwell's physician, John Bathurst, told Hartlib of his proposals for a training college similar to a university college, to be financed from local taxes. It was to serve as 'an Inspector and Seminarie of all schoolmasters of all free-schooles throughout the kingdome' (quoted in Webster 1975:216-7).

And Joshua Rawlin, a teacher from Kent, proposed that each county should have a committee of ministers to appoint grammar-school teachers, with approval given only to those able to teach according to the methods of Comenius.


Lawson and Silver argue that 'In some respects these two decades were propitious for large-scale educational advance' (Lawson and Silver 1973:157). Conservative voices were (at least temporarily) silenced and there was open discussion of new ideas of democracy and equality. There were calls for the reform of parliament, for all men to have the vote, and for the abolition of a variety of privileges; while in the New Model Army, promotion was based partly on merit and not just on social class.

'Some expansion of educational opportunity might well have been expected in this new and unprecedented climate of liberal opinion' (Lawson and Silver 1973:157). And indeed the Long Parliament, which contained a large number of well-educated men, did carry out many reforms and seems to have been concerned about education. Thus free schools and colleges were regularly exempted from rate assessment, and funds from sequestrated royalist lands and church estates were partly used for educational purposes.

However, while parliament was 'mildly sympathetic' to many of the Puritans' proposals, a succession of committees 'produced no coherent national educational policy' (Webster 1975:208).

Progress was also hindered by the civil wars and several bad harvests, which damaged the economy and prevented action from matching good intentions. Teachers went off to fight or to serve as surgeons or chaplains, while others were removed from their posts for refusing to support the new Commonwealth; school buildings were damaged (as at Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Pontefract) or completely destroyed (as at York and Scarborough); schoolmasters' incomes fell as endowments declined in value, so some abandoned teaching and their posts were hard to fill; rents due to schools went unpaid; the abolition of the episcopacy removed the patronage and supervision of the diocesan bishops; and the instability discouraged philanthropic investment in education.

In these difficult conditions, then, it is hardly surprising that 'the assistance provided by the state fell short of the reformers' hopes' (Lawson and Silver 1973:158).

Key figures

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

The philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon - 'the herald of modernity' (Greaves 1969:27) - is often regarded as the father of empiricism. He put forward a number of ideas for reforming education.

Learning, he argued, must concern itself with utility and action. He asked why the colleges of Europe were concerned solely with preparation for the professions - law, theology, and medicine - rather than with the study of the arts and sciences. Both, he argued, were essential. 'The practice of universities largely limiting themselves to the training of lawyers, theologians, and medical doctors was inimical to the advancement of the sciences and harmful to states and governments (Greaves 1969:27).

He argued for the setting up of 'a most perfect and general library':

The creation of a spacious garden, with every plant and herb, a zoo for rare animals and birds, lakes for fish, to provide in a small compass 'a model of universal nature made private'. A museum of natural science and mechanical arts, 'wherein whatsoever the hand of man by exquisite art or engine hath made rare in stuff, form or motion' might be collected together and classified. A centre for experimental research - 'a still-house so furnished with mills, instruments, furnaces and vessels, as may be a palace fit for a philosopher's stone' (Simon 1966:392).
Bacon was concerned to draw a clear distinction between reason and revelation. He developed a rational humanist outlook 'in the best Protestant tradition ... His philosophy inspired a new body of reformers who advanced practicable plans for recasting education in the light of new social needs and developments in knowledge' (Simon 1966:396).

O'Day suggests that while the ideas of the French humanist Petrus Ramus had been 'all but defeated even in Cambridge by the early seventeenth century', the works of Francis Bacon 'kept alive a strong current of interest in realist, utilitarian education' (O'Day 1982:261).

His writings had a considerable influence upon products of the universities in both a direct and an indirect fashion. During the 1620s and 30s his Utopian proposals and suggestions that learning should be advanced in the interests of the common weal appealed to many of the more radical Protestants (O'Day 1982:261).
In The Advancement of Learning (1605), Bacon criticised humanists such as Sturm and Ascham for their 'excessive admiration for classical authors' and their 'taste for elaborate preaching' (Webster 1975:105). He advocated a balanced education which combined contemplation with action and involved the first-hand study of Nature.
Bacon had recognised the weakness of humanistic philosophy and education. His system embraced an epistemology consonant with new ideas on child psychology, a methodology suited to the theory of precognition, and a view of the social role of knowledge consistent with the puritan advocation of an active life. Bacon's experimental philosophy accordingly provided an ideal context for the puritan view of childhood (Webster 1975:107).
John Comenius (1592-1670)

John Amos Comenius (pictured - from the portrait by Rembrandt), a Czech teacher and scientist, was one of the earliest champions of universal education, a concept he developed in his 1632 book Didactica magna, in which he urged teachers and learners to leave divisive sects and unite in common institutions of learning.

He went on to develop the idea of human learning as a progression from youth to maturity and from elementary to advanced knowledge. 'Nothing should be taught to the young', he wrote, 'unless it is not only permitted, but actually demanded by their age and mental strength' (Comenius 1632). 'These three elements of commonality, community and progression have characterised most education systems developed since' (Benn and Chitty 1996:1).

Comenius stressed the educational importance of the first six years of a child's life and developed the idea of teaching children of five or six 'without any tediousnesse to reade and write, as it were in a continuall course of play and pastime' (quoted in Hadow 1933:24).

In 1640, the House of Commons invited Comenius to England to establish and participate in an agency for the promotion of learning. It was intended that by-products of this would be the publication of 'universal' books and the setting up of schools for boys and girls.

Comenius was impressed by London's crowded churches and the fact that

A large number of the men and youths copy out the sermons with their pens ... they discovered an art which has now come into vogue even among the country folk, that of rapid script which they call stenography ... Almost all of them acquire this art of rapid writing, as soon as they have learnt at school to read the scriptures in the vernacular. It takes them about another year to learn the art of shorthand (quoted in Simon 1966:385).
He also noted that
They have an enormous number of books on all subjects in their own language ... There are truly not more bookstalls in Frankfurt at the time of the fair than there are here every day (quoted in Simon 1966:385).
When civil war broke out in 1642 Comenius left England, but plans for the publication of books and the setting up of schools were furthered by Samuel Hartlib with the backing of Oliver Cromwell.

Comenius's call for universal education was echoed by Hartlib and his associates Dury, Milton and Hall, while 'even more radical criticisms came from the army chaplains Dell, Webster and Pinnel' (Webster 1975:114). Plans were advanced for workhouses, elementary schools, agricultural colleges and academies, to be open to both sexes and all social classes. 'These were an open demonstration of the means by which the precepts of Bacon and Comenius could be translated into social action' (Webster 1975:114).

Samuel Hartlib (c1600-1662)

As a young man Samuel Hartlib moved from his native Poland to England. He studied at Cambridge where he came into contact with Baconian ideas. From 1638

he threw himself into works of charity, collected money for Protestant refugees from Poland, Bohemia, and the Palatinate, set up a short-lived school, on Baconian principles, at Chichester, and finally, in 1630, moved to London and lived permanently in Duke's Place, Holborn (Trevor-Roper 1960 quoted in Greaves 1969:31).

Hartlib was a key figure in educational thinking during the Commonwealth, as Bacon had been in the preceding period:

the advocacy of reforms in the aims and scope and in the methods of education was made urgent in England as it had never been before, mainly in the direction of wider scope of curriculum and realism in treatment, through appeal to sense-perception, in the writings of the three great educational leaders: John Amos Comenius, Samuel Hartlib, and John Dury (Watson 1921a:1528).
In his Ephemerides (miscellaneous jottings written between 1634 and 1660), Hartlib frequently mentions Comenius and other philosophers:
These 3 (Pell, Fundanius, Comenius) are very fit to bee imploied about the Reformation of Learning. The one urges mainly a perfect enumeration of all things. The other is all for that which hase an evident use in vita humana. The third is all for methodizing and contracting cutting of all verbosities and impertinencies whatsoever. These three being all reduced into one must needes make up a compleat direction (Hartlib 1639).

Hartlib was fascinated with the idea of developing a 'pansophy' - an encyclopaedia embracing the whole of human knowledge - and promulgated some surprisingly modern ideas: 'A great fault in teaching [is] that children are not made to learne themselves but are always taught' (Hartlib 1639).

Others associated with Hartlib included Cyprian Kinner, who urged the desirability of a school collection of living animals; George Snell, who advocated training colleges for teachers; Hezekiah Woodward, who wanted children to be taught natural science; John Hall, who urged the universities to undertake research work in science; Samuel Harmar, who put forward schemes for the education of the poor; John Evelyn, who had 'the eye of the educational connoisseur' (Watson 1921a:1528); Sir Henry Wotton, who made suggestions based on his practical experience of diplomacy; William Petty, who advocated equipping colleges and schools with aids for scientific and technical training; and the poet John Milton.

But it was Hartlib, Comenius and John Dury who were 'the philosophers of the English opposition party and the articulators of Baconian reform' (Greaves 1969:31).

John Dury (1596-1680)

John Dury was a Scottish Calvinist minister who had been brought up in the Netherlands, where he had met Samuel Hartlib.

For Dury, 'the teacher was involved in a divine rather than secular mission' (Webster 1975:101). He called for reform of both schools and universities, acknowledging that this would not be easy because those who

are habituated to a custome of their owne, and thinke themselves to be Doctors and Masters of Sciences, are not easily brought by the sight of any booke, though never so well penned, to alter their course of teaching (quoted in Greaves 1969:33).
He saw education as the preparation of
every one for the industrie and employment in the society of men, whereunto by reason of his birth, he may have a right, or by reason of his naturall parts he may by others be called, or of his own accord lawfully apply himself (quoted in Greaves 1969:33).
Students, he said, should not be made to 'learn by heart the General Rules, sentences, and Precepts of Arts, before they are furnished with any matter whereunto to apply those Rules and Precepts', because such teaching would lead them into 'a Maze of subtile and unprofitable Notions; whereby their mindes are puft up with a windy conceit of knowledge ... for their heads are filled with certain terrnes and empty shewes of learning' (quoted in Greaves 1969:33).

Teaching should be based as far as possible on sensual perception rather than on tradition or reason and should build on prior knowledge. Subjects should be taught 'practically first and then theoretically' (Greaves 1969:33). Instruction in logic and metaphysics should come at the end of the academic programme 'because of their reliance on pure reason rather than sense perception' (Greaves 1969:34).

Dury urged the setting up of a public agency for universal learning to coordinate the work of the universities and the schools; a college for the teaching of oriental languages; and professorships of practical divinity.

He published several books, including The Reformed School in 1650 and Some Proposals towards the Advancement of Learning in 1653.

In The Reformed School he envisaged 'universities which would produce socially useful graduates' (O'Day 1982:265), and he argued that nothing should be taught unless it was useful to society. The book 'undoubtedly appealed to the university critics and advocates of educational expansion' (Webster 1975:217), and its main principles were reiterated in Some Proposals.

The Reformed School became a leading influence on puritan educational thought and its effect was apparent on many college proposals which emerged from a variety of sources during the 1650s. These ranged from schemes for technical and agricultural colleges to ambitious plans for new universities (Webster 1975:217).
Dury's Baconian concern for the application of knowledge to practical problems was shared by William Petty.

William Petty (1623-1687)

William Petty learned Latin and some Greek at school, was apprenticed to a sea captain at the age of 12, became a merchant at 15 and then joined the navy. When civil war broke out in 1643 he pursued his studies, especially in medicine, at Utrecht, Leyden, Amsterdam and Paris.

In 1649 he became a doctor of physic and Fellow of Brasenose College Oxford, where the newly-formed group of Oxford philosophers often met at his lodgings. Within a year he had been appointed instructor in anatomy at Oxford and Professor of Music at Gresham College London, holding the two posts concurrently. In 1652 he was given leave to join Oliver Cromwell's army in Ireland as physician-general. Ten years later he was a founder member of the Royal Society.

Foster Watson argues that, because of Petty's 'wide outlook and skilled interests, his views on education have special value' (Watson 1921b:1278). They are contained in his 'Advice to Mr. Samuel Hartlib' on the Advancement of some Particular Parts of Learning.

He is a convinced Baconian, and endeavours to apply Bacon's realism to school conditions. He deliberately excluded the classics, and even Latin grammar, from the curriculum of the ordinary child. All children, from the highest to the lowest classes, should be taught some 'genteel manufacture' in trade or technical schools, ergastula literaria (i.e. a literary house-of-work), where children should be taught to do something for their living, as well as learn to read and write, and the elements of arithmetic, geometry, and useful arts. He proposes that the old hospitals should be converted into a Nosocomium Academicum, with house, garden, library, chemical laboratory, anatomical theatre, apotheca, and all necessary apparatus (Watson 1921b:1278).
Teaching, Petty argued, should be realistic, and include observation, experiment, and demonstration (Watson 1921b:1279).

He agreed with the views of Roger Ascham and Comenius regarding the importance of a suitable education for young children - especially the use of play. While he was with Cromwell's army in Ireland, he wrote:

We see Children do delight in Drums, Pipes, Fiddles, Guns made of Elder sticks, and bellowes noses, piped Keys, etc., painting Flags and Ensigns with Elder-berries and Corn poppy, making ships with Paper, and setting even Nut-shells a swimming, handling the tooles of workmen as soon as they turne their backs, and trying to worke themselves (quoted in The Harleian Miscellany, a collection of material from the library of the Earl of Oxford collated and edited by Samuel Johnson and William Oldys between 1744 and 1753).
Petty is also known for his economic theories and his methods of 'political arithmetic', and for promoting the philosophy of 'laissez-faire' in relation to government.

John Milton (1608-1674)

John Milton committed himself to 'the reforming of Education ... the want whereof this nation perishes' (quoted in Greaves 1969:40), but he was moderate in his views and proposed an educational plan which was 'less of a reform than a reordering of the existing system' (Greaves 1969:40). It was aimed principally at preparing the sons of the nobility and the gentry for political leadership.

In his tract Of Education, published in 1644 and addressed to Samuel Hartlib, Milton attempted to 'fuse the ideals of classical humanism with the principles of Puritanism without losing sight of the utilitarian ideal' (Greaves 1969:40). The traditional subjects - including the study of Latin and Greek - were kept, and experimental science was added, though 'he did not recommend any scholarly works or theories to his readers as he did in more traditional areas' (Greaves 1969:41).

He argued that 'Language is but the instrument conveying to us things useful to be known' (quoted in Newbolt 1921:35). Latin and Greek must be learnt first, then the 'things useful to be known' must be studied through Latin and Greek authors. He was critical of the school teaching of the day, describing it as 'those Grammatick flats and shallows' (quoted in Newbolt 1921:36).

During the civil war, he declared that the only education worth having was one which made men 'magnanimous'. It would include learning about the past, knowledge of the present, and a desire to train pupils so that they might be 'worthy patriots dear to God and famous to all ages' (quoted in Watson 1921a:1528).

In his anti-monarchy tract The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660), he urged the establishment of schools and academies, 'wherein children should be bred up in all liberal arts and sciences' (quoted in Watson 1921a:1528), as well as in grammar. His encyclopaedic ideal was also the aim of the proposed academies of Edmund Boulton (1620), Francis Kynaston, Balthazar Gerbier (1648), and Lewis Maidwell (1700).

Milton was conservative in his approach to education, though his conservatism accepted some change. His approach was probably typical of what other Puritans would have accepted. Differences undoubtedly would have existed, but Milton's plan of reform, retaining the traditional subjects and gradually integrating the experimental sciences with them, serves as an example of a fairly typical Puritan approach to education. The utilitarian criterion was present but not dominant (Greaves 1969:41).
John Dury's wife, Dorothy, was closely associated with Milton. Her patron (and Milton's) was her relative Katherine Boyle, sister of Robert Boyle, who was also heavily committed to educational reform. Without the backing of Katherine, Milton might well have been imprisoned or executed at the Restoration.

Charles Hoole (1610-1667)

The nature of the 'Grammatick flats and shallows', which Milton had said characterised the teaching of language, was described by Charles Hoole in his Art of Teaching School, written for Rotherham School and published in 1660:

The general course taken in teaching the rules of the genders and nouns and conjugating verbs is, to make children patter them over by heart, and sometimes also to construe and parse them; but seldom or never are they taught the meaning of a rule, or how to make it apply readily to the words they meet with elsewhere (quoted in Newbolt 1921:36).

Hoole approved of children learning Latin - but not until they had mastered English. 'For learning to read English perfectly', he wrote, 'I allow two or three years' time, so that at seven or eight years of age a child may begin Latin' (quoted in Newbolt 1921:36).

But Hoole is mainly remarkable for his surprisingly modern child-centred approach to education. He emphasises, for example, the importance of 'the observing of children with a view of helping their "imperfections"' (Watson 1901:526):

He does not indeed reach to the modern position that every stage of growth in life has a perfection which is appropriate and adequate to itself, but he does see (and herein consists the greatness of Hoole) that in the work of teaching it is the pupil who is the end to be considered. The teacher is the means to the promotion of the good of the child. The child is never to be regarded as merely a means to the teacher's good (Watson 1901:526).
Although Hoole was not the first to write about teaching English to children - Edmund Coote had done so in 1590 - his Petty School (1660) 'may be described as the first pedagogical treatise on the teaching of very little children in anything like a modern spirit' (Watson 1901:527).

The petty schools of Hoole's time were frequently run by 'poor women or other necessitous persons' (Watson 1901:530). Hoole argues that this situation should not be allowed to continue, and suggests that the rich should provide endowments so that good teachers could be attracted. They should be paid a stipend of at least 20 a year, have suitable accommodation and receive fees from parents who could afford to pay. In this situation, 'the master might be expected to take all such poor boys as could conveniently attend the schools free of cost' (Watson 1901:530).

As to the qualifications of a petty school master, Hoole says:

I would have him to be a person of a pious, sober, comely, and discreet behaviour, and tenderly affectionate towards children, having some knowledge of the Latin tongue, and ability to write a fair hand, and good skill in arithmetic, and then let him move within the compass of his own orb, so as to teach all his scholars (as they become capable) to read English very well, and afterwards to write and cast accounts. And let him not at all meddle with teaching the accidence [elements of grammar], except only to some more pregnant wits, which are intended to be set forwards to learn Latin, and for such be sure that he ground them well, or else dismiss them as soon as they can read distinctly and write legibly, to the Grammar School (quoted in (Watson 1901:530).
Watson argues that Hoole's Petty School is 'the first adumbration of a modern elementary school scheme' (Watson 1901:530).

James Harrington (1611-1677)

Equally remarkable were the views of English politician and essayist James Harrington. In The Commonwealth of Oceana, published in 1656, he advocated free, compulsory, state-directed universal education. He argued that the revenues of bishops, deans and chapters should be confiscated and devoted to the 'advancement of learning and piety' (quoted in Watson 1921a:1528).

Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676)

Gerrard Winstanley had been an unsuccessful cloth merchant in London, then a corn chandler in Surrey. In the late 1640s he had prophetic visions which led him to 'identify the Fall with economic, political, legal and educational monopolies and to establish agricultural communes which would restore men to their Edenic state of perfection' (McDowell 2003:14).

Winstanley believed that the phases of formal education - 'childhood' and 'youth' - should extend 'from early childhood to the age of forty' (Webster 1975:103).

The schools

Educational provision in early seventeenth-century England was still very much class-based.

Wealthy members of the ruling class continued to send their sons to the great public schools, notably Eton, Harrow and Westminster. These schools, most of them boarding institutions, maintained the traditional curriculum of the classics and mostly served 'the aristocracy and the squirearchy' (Williams 1961:134) on a national basis.

The early education of the sons of the landed gentry often began at home, or they were sent to the household of a neighbouring magnate. Sometimes tutors were employed. Education in large households was not limited to academic subjects. 'Boys learned how to run households and estates by service as household officials' (Coward 1980:59).

Boys of middle-class parents - sons of professional men and successful merchants, for example - would usually attend a grammar school.

For most children, however, opportunities for education depended on the 'haphazard system of parish and private adventure schools' (Williams 1961:134).

Inevitably, such schools varied in quality:

In the Shropshire village of Myddle there can be little doubt which was the better school: Mr Osmary Hill ran a school at Bilmarsh Farm, which had a good local reputation and 'many gentlemen's sons of good quality were his schollers', while Mr Twyford merely 'taught neighbours' children to read and his wife taught women to sew, and make needle workes' (Coward 1980:59).
There was no recognised school age - 'even young adults attended schools in the lower forms where need so dictated' (O'Day 1982:62) - but generally speaking, boys (and some girls) between the ages of four and eight were taught to read either at home or in one of the petty, ABC, dame or parish schools. Promising youngsters 'might be singled out to be taught to read and write by local clergymen or curates' (Coward 1980:59). In a few cases boys learned to read in the petties' class of a grammar school and once they could read and spell - at around seven or eight years - they might be admitted to the 'accidence' form, where they learned the rudiments of English grammar and began classical studies.

In Leicestershire, John Brinsley recorded that in the period 1625-40 there were a number of locally supported schools, most with a schoolhouse and two masters, and thirty or so other townships and villages where parish schoolmasters or curates were teaching. Many of these had university degrees. (Brinsley published two books, in 1612 and 1622, aimed at providing advice for what he called the 'common country schools').

In 1609 Wolverhampton school had two masters and sixty-nine pupils. The usher (assistant) taught 41 of these in two forms and a petties' class, while the master taught the remaining 28 in three forms. This type of organisation, with boys allocated to classes by attainment, 'must also have prevailed in the one-teacher school in the countryside, though here an assistant was sometimes kept or older pupils helped to teach the younger' (Simon 1966:378).

In Cambridgeshire most villages had a schoolmaster; in West Sussex at least twenty towns and villages had a petty or a grammar school; in Leicestershire, seventy schoolmasters were licensed to teach between 1600 and 1640; and in Kent there were thirty-eight teachers in Canterbury, twelve schools in Faversham, and twenty-eight schools in Maidstone (Coward 1980:59).

Between 1560 and 1640 individuals gave more than 293,000 for the establishment of new grammar schools: 142 such schools were opened between 1603 and 1649. 'These statistics probably underestimate the scale of educational provision because many unendowed schools and unlicensed teachers are hidden from the records' (Coward 1980:59). There were fewer educational bequests during the Commonwealth period (1649-1660) and their value in real terms declined, but the endowed grammar schools were still supported by the gentry. Pocklington Grammar School admitted 76 boys from influential Yorkshire families in 1650, and Oliver Cromwell sent his four sons to Felsted School in Essex, which was popular with puritan families.

However, because class still had a profound impact upon schooling, there was little social mobility:

At a time when the idea that each child was designed for a specific vocation was in vogue, it was accepted that each child had different educational requirements. Vocation was determined not only by merit, aptitude and ambition but also by social class (O'Day 1982:62).

So while it is probably true that more people could read and write in 1640 than in 1560, literacy was still confined to 'the landed élite, wealthy merchants, shopkeepers and professional men', and 'illiteracy persisted among the labouring poor, farmers, skilled craftsmen, and most women' (Coward 1980:61).

Women were particularly disadvantaged - indeed, those who dared to suggest that women should be educated 'had to assure their readers that the male dominance of society would not be thereby disrupted' (Coward 1980:61).

Thus even Comenius, 'one of the most liberal men produced by the seventeenth century' (Coward 1980:61), could write in 1657:

We are not advising that women be educated in such a way that their tendency to curiosity shall be developed, but so that their sincerity and contentedness may be increased, and this chiefly in those things which it becomes a woman to know and to do; that is to say, all that enables her to look after her husband and to promote the welfare of her husband and her family (quoted in Coward 1980:61).
Others feared that the very idea of educating the masses would have serious consequences. Bacon, for example, writing in 1611, argued that the provision of too many schools would result in a lack of servants and apprentices, and that
there being more scholars bred than the state can prefer and employ, and the active part of that life not bearing a proportion to the preparative, it must needs fall out that many persons will be bred unfit for other vocations and unprofitable for that in which they are brought up, which fills the realm full of indigent, idle and wanton people, which are but materia rerum novarum (quoted in Coward 1980:61-62).
He need not have worried. As Rosemary O'Day has argued, 'Not a single one of the educational reformers of the period was primarily concerned with providing opportunities for social mobility' (O'Day 1982:19). Even Comenius emphasised that in putting forward a scheme for mass education 'he was seeking moral and religious change and not an undermining of the social and economic order' (O'Day 1982:19).

In practice, 'attempts to give priority in schooling to poor boys (as laid down by the founders of many schools and colleges) were often resisted or circumvented' (O'Day 1982:19), and the free schools were 'often inaccessible to the poor because of the cost of board, books, additional subjects and so on' (O'Day 1982:19).

In any case, most people in the seventeenth century were far too busy earning enough to eat to worry about education.

Social divisions were also evident in the provision of apprenticeships. The existing system of skilled apprenticeships, providing training for boys from reasonably affluent backgrounds, was supplemented - in the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601 - by a new system of 'parish' apprenticeships for poor, illegitimate and orphaned children, both boys and girls. These provided training for occupations of lower status such as farm labouring, brick making and menial household service.

Barry Coward notes Lawrence Stone's assertion that the increase in the provision of education and the improvement in its quality between 1560 and 1640 amounted to 'an educational revolution' (Stone 1964:10 quoted in Coward 1980:60). Coward urges caution, however, arguing that while there is an abundance of sources relating to English education from the mid-sixteenth century onwards, the historian must guard against 'assuming that this by itself is proof of anything other than an improvement in educational administration and record-keeping' (Coward 1980:61).

If there was an 'educational revolution' before the middle of the century, argues Coward, 'it did not extend to women or to the poor' (Coward 1980:62). O'Day goes further and suggests that there was an 'actual contraction of educational opportunity for the masses in the seventeenth century, after a period of expansion during the reign of Elizabeth' (O'Day 1982:19).

The grammar-school curriculum

The curriculum of the grammar schools still consisted almost entirely of religious and classical subjects and the teaching of Latin grammar. Set books routinely included the Catechism, the Psalter, the Book of Common Prayer, the Bible, and a Latin grammar (usually William Lily's of 1542). The works of classical authors were read, though as John Brinsley, a teacher since the 1590s, pointed out, 'lewd or superstitious books or ballads' were censored and 'all filthy places in the poets' were 'quickly passed over' (Coward 1980:62).

The grammar schools were reluctant to meet the new demands for courses of training and education fitting boys for the life of the period. Such change as there was tended to reflect the Puritanism which pervaded national life:

This basis associated the schools with the teaching of the classics, partly as a tradition from the Middle Ages, and partly from the rejuvenating influence of the Renaissance, but, above all, from the recognition of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew as the 'holy' languages (Watson 1921a:1527).
But while Puritanism was historical in its outlook, it 'prepared the ground for the pedagogical doctrine of realist instruction' (Watson 1921a:1527). Thus Bacon's appeal to observation and experiment was applied to educational theory by Puritans such as Comenius, Dury and Locke. The mysticism of the middle ages was now joined by an interest in the external world, and this can be seen in textbooks such as those of Hezekiah Woodward.

English was still studied only in connection with Latin. Richard Lloyd's Schoole-masters' Auxiliaries (1654) contained a section on teaching 'to read and write English dexterously'; and in 1657 Joshua Poole published his English Parnassus, 'a remarkable collection of the choicest English epithets and phrases, gathered from the best English poets' (Watson 1921a:1527).

In the teaching of history, the Erasmian practice of referring to current events was followed by later humanists:

Alexander Ross, who completed Raleigh's History of the World; Richard Knolles, who wrote a History of the Ottoman Turks; and John Langley, 'historian, cosmographer, and antiquary', were all masters of grammar schools (Watson 1921a:1527).
Modern geography had had its origins at Bristol Grammar School during the Tudor period. Richard Hakluyt, who took his MA at Oxford in 1577, stated that he was the first to show 'the newly reformed maps, globes, spheres, and other instruments for demonstration in the common schools' (quoted in Watson 1921a:1527).

In the 1620s, boys at Westminster School in London were instructed in Honter's Cosmographic and practised 'finding out cities and countries in the maps' (quoted in Watson 1921a:1527). In The Reformed School (1650), John Dury urged that an outline of geography should be taught in schools.

Several textbooks for the teaching of modern foreign languages had been published in the sixteenth century: Claude Holyband's French Schoolmaster around 1565, John Florio's First Fruits (Italian) in 1578 and de Corvo's Spanish Grammar, translated into English by John Thorius in 1590. Henry Hexham published a Dutch grammar in 1660; and a German grammar for English pupils was published in 1680.

The education of girls

The evidence suggests that 'it was not so much that schools were barred to girls as that education at school was not demanded by their parents' (O'Day 1982:185). Women did not need more than a smattering of formal academic learning and many families could not afford to release their daughters for a relatively expensive and 'useless' schooling. 'Even had they so been able, schooling alongside boys was regarded as dangerous for the preservation of a marriageable girl's most precious commodity - her chastity' (O'Day 1982:185).

Despite these attitudes, there was some provision for girls' education. Rivington Free Grammar School in Lancashire had one girl pupil in 1615, two or three more in 1616 and 1617, twelve in 1672 and thirteen in 1681 (O'Day 1982:185). In 1645 Sir John Offley founded two schools for boys and girls in Madeley, Staffordshire. They were divided by a wall, which 'marked the sexual and curricular segregation of the pupils' (O'Day 1982:185). And the number of girls' boarding schools increased.

London also saw the establishment of a number of 'fashionable finishing schools' (O'Day 1982:187). These included a Ladies' Hall at Deptford in 1617, where the pupils were taught needlework and produced a masque at court; Mrs Freind's school at Stepney, where in 1628 fees of 21 per annum were charged for tuition in writing, needlework and music; several boarding schools in Hackney in the 1630s; and several in Putney, which John Evelyn visited in 1649 (O'Day 1982:187).

Since most of the grammar schools taught only classical subjects, the increasing demand for instruction in other subjects led to the establishment of private schools specialising in mathematics, writing and modern languages. Some of these schools catered for girls:

The first noted private girls' school for all kinds of subjects appears to have been that of Mrs. Perwick at Hackney in 1643; the most famous, perhaps, was that of Mrs. Bathsua Makin, at Tottenham High Cross (Watson 1921a:1528).
Among the Puritan reformers, the most notable exponent of women's education was John Dury. In The Reformed School he made it clear that he expected the Noble Schools to cater for the requirements of both sexes, although they were to be educated separately. Girls were expected to become 'good and carefull housewives', though every encouragement was to be given to those 'found capable of Tongues and Sciences' (Webster 1975:220).

Dury's liberal attitude to women was 'consistent with their important role in the Hartlib circle' (Webster 1975:220).

The involvement of Mrs. Dury in a project for girls' education is indicated by a letter to Lady Ranelagh, in which she included general strictures on female upbringing, and hinted that she was composing a longer treatise on this subject (Webster 1975:220).
Sadly, although Dorothy Dury's letter to Lady Ranelagh has survived, her tract on the education of girls has not.

Education for girls from the lower classes was discussed by Winstanley, Robinson and Hartlib. Their primary aim, however, was 'to equip girls for their domestic tasks and to train them in cottage crafts, such as weaving' (Webster 1975:220).

The teaching profession

'The evidence for the development of teaching as a profession in the early modern period', argues Rosemary O'Day, 'is indeed ambiguous' (O'Day 1982:178). Certainly, teachers were becoming better qualified: between the 1580s and the 1630s 'the percentage of teachers with degrees, licensed to teach in the diocese of London, more than doubled' (Coward 1980:60).

The provision of teachers inevitably varied between schools, with the better endowed, more fashionable grammar schools being able to attract those with good qualifications. Other schools, offering poor salaries, were 'unable to demand the sole attention of their personnel' (O'Day 1982:176) and some schoolteachers were reduced to combining their teaching post with that of a lowly parish clerk.

Nonetheless, during this period 'the groundwork was laid for future professionalisation' (O'Day 1982:178).

Schools in Wales, Ireland and Scotland


In Wales, the Puritans' main aim was the expansion of elementary education. James Whitelocke's claim that every Welsh town had a schoolmaster 'was an exaggeration', but 'the short-term achievement was certainly considerable' (Webster 1975:224).


In 1649 parliament sent John Owen to investigate 'the spiritual condition of the inhabitants of Ireland' (Webster 1975:225). After he reported back on the 'gospelless' state of the Irish, preachers were sent, the grammar schools regulated, and new schools and apprenticeship schemes established. One of the committees charged with this work was dominated by Hartlib's associates Anthony Morgan, Henry Jones, Petty and Worsley.


As in England, Scotland felt 'the need to accommodate new economic realities' (O'Day 1982:231). Concerns were expressed, both in parliament and in the Kirk, about the lack of schools. An Act of Parliament in 1616 required that every parish in Scotland should have a school paid for by the parishioners. It also sought to prohibit the use of Gaelic and enforce the use of English so that the 'irish [sic] language which is one of the chief, principal causes of the continuance of barbarity and incivility in the Highlands may be abolished and removed' (quoted in O'Day 1982:227).

A report by the Commissioners for the Plantation of Kirks in 1627 showed that there had been slow progress in implementing the 1616 Act: of 49 lowland parishes examined, 29 had no school; 13 had one school (but some of these were in danger of collapse) and 7 had two schools.

A further Act in 1633 sought once again to encourage the establishment of parish schools, and efforts were made to comply, but war and religious problems prevented significant progress. In 1650, only 28 out of 83 parishes in Aberdeenshire had schools. 'It was clear that the local university had small chance of tapping the potential of the youthful population of its area when the provision of schools was so poor and geographically patchy' (O'Day 1982:228).

There were frequent calls, too, for more practical education - especially for the poor - and some attempts were made to provide vocational training. In 1633 a spinning school was established in Peebles, but it was a failure. In 1641, and again in 1645, the Scottish parliament proposed that each burgh should establish a rates-supported school of apprenticeship in the allied clothing trades. Unfortunately, 'as with so many other schemes, it was forgotten during the wars' (O'Day 1982:232).

The universities


Following the Reformation, education was seen as important in promoting Protestantism. 'Higher education, as well as elementary and secondary education, consequently flourished' (Coward 1980:60). The number of students admitted to the two universities rose from fewer than 800 a year in 1560 to more than 1,200 a year in the 1630s - a proportion of the 17 and 18 year old age group which 'was not exceeded until three centuries later' (Coward 1980:60). However, the percentage of 'poor' students - sons of farmers, craftsmen, small tradesmen - fell during the seventeenth century, though it was still 'quite substantial' (Williams 1961:134).

Many undergraduates did not complete a degree course. Some - notably the sons of the landed gentry - moved on after a year to one of the Inns of Court, where they gained 'a smattering of legal knowledge to help them in the administration of their estates' (Coward 1980:60).

Others completed their education with a spell of foreign travel:

The Grand Tour was established as a normal part of a gentleman's education, despite great parental concern, due ... to its expense and the opportunities it gave young men to enjoy pleasures forbidden them at home (Coward 1980:60).
Sir Henry Slingsby of Scriven in Yorkshire, for example, warns his son in 1610 to 'take heed what companie he keepes in too familiar a fashion for the frenche are of an ill conversacon and full of many loathsome deseases' (quoted in Coward 1980:60).

Youthful excesses were also to be found in the universities. In his autobiography, Simonds d'Ewes, who completed his course at Cambridge in 1620, wrote that he was glad to leave St John's College where 'swearing, drinking, rioting, and hatred of all piety and virtue under false and adulterate nicknames, did abound ... and generally in all the university' (quoted in Simon 1966:399).

As far as the teaching was concerned, Oxford and Cambridge were still bound by their scholastic tradition: new ideas, like those in science, 'made little headway' (Coward 1980:62). Joan Simon argues that

Cosmography might be an extra-curricular study, but natural philosophy remained grounded in Aristotle and there was no appreciation of the Baconian view; science in this sense seemed something much less than learning in any understood sense of the term (Simon 1966:395).
However, things began to change around 1620, when 'the institutional status of science was greatly improved at Oxford, and means were sought to promote similar developments in Cambridge' (Webster 1975:122). The Savilian chairs of astronomy and geometry were established in 1619; the merchant Richard Tomlins endowed an annual lecture in anatomy; and other individual benefactors endowed chairs or public lectureships in natural philosophy, moral philosophy, ancient history, and music, 'though these subjects had little relevance for undergraduate studies' (Lawson and Silver 1973:131).

It seems likely that new ideas were also being taught unofficially by some tutors, notably mathematicians William Oughtred (King's Hall, Cambridge), Thomas Allen (Gloucester Hall, Oxford), and Henry Briggs, who left Gresham College London in 1620 to take the Savilian chair in geometry at Oxford. But how widespread such teaching was is open to conjecture. 'The surviving evidence is inconclusive,' says Barry Coward,

but if students' notebooks are a guide to what was taught (not always a totally safe assumption!) then the syllabus at Oxford and Cambridge at that time was very conservative and narrow. 'Vera et sana philosophica est vera Aristotelica' jotted down Lawrence Bretton of Queen's College, Cambridge, in his student notebook in the 1630s. Aristotelian philosophy seems to have reigned supreme at the universities before the English Revolution (Coward 1980:62-63).
John Wallis, who studied at Cambridge during the 1630s, complained that mathematics was barely regarded as an academic subject. Wallis made a point of studying 'physic, anatomy, astronomy, geography, and natural philosophy as well as mathematics' (Greaves 1969:65).

Scientific activity in Cambridge focused on the Platonists. This group was 'not Baconian in its emphasis: its members were more interested in the metaphysical problems of science than in experimental methodology' (O'Day 1982:263). However, their desire to demonstrate the wonder of God's creation resulted in detailed studies of natural history, notably by John Ray, Henry Power and Francis Willoughby.

The 1640s

During the 1640s, the universities suffered as a result of the civil wars, and were then subject to the purges of the Puritans. Cambridge was predominantly royalist at first, but presbyterianism gained control after the university was purged by parliament in 1644. Oxford - the royalist headquarters - was particularly badly affected.

In the Grand Remonstrance of 1641, parliament expressed its intention to 'purge the fountains of learning, the two Universities, that the streams flowing from thence may be clear and pure' (quoted in Webster 1975:115). The introduction into the universities of experimental science, which was seen as an integral part of puritan education, 'became a central issue in the fierce debates on educational reform which accompanied the Puritan Revolution' (Webster 1975:115).

Between 1642 and 1646 the Oxford colleges housed the king's court and the government and army headquarters, and students were forced to undertake military duties. Teaching was almost impossible, and the number of students admitted in 1645 was a tenth of the number a decade earlier.

In 1648-49 the triumph of the New Model Army resulted in a purge of Oxford. Parliamentary visitors evicted the royalists, and new appointments - 'of men imbued with Baconian and Puritan ideals' (Greaves 1969:65) - were made to two hundred fellowships. The rights of academics were guaranteed and university property was protected, but only if reforms were undertaken.

Gradually a complex machinery evolved for regulating the universities; the rhetorical language of reform continued, but political and religious aims predominated, and most aspects of education were largely overlooked (Webster 1975:182).
The puritans were divided in their attitude towards Oxford and Cambridge. On the one hand, the more educated and moderate puritans were critical of the universities' outdated Aristotelianism and their neglect of experimental science, but their plans for educational reform focused on proposals to found a new universal college on Comenian 'pansophist' principles. It was partly in connection with this that Comenius was invited to England in 1641. Hartlib and his circle in London continued to promote these ideas right up to the Restoration but they came to nothing. However, their meetings at Gresham College, where they discussed social improvement through education, scientific experiment and technology, led to the establishment of the Royal Society.

On the other hand, the more extreme puritan groups - notably the Levellers and the Diggers - despised university learning because of its uselessness, its association with social privilege, and its irrelevance to godly religion. Winstanley described the universities as 'standing ponds of stinking waters' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:160). These extreme views were strongly represented in Barebone's parliament of 1653 and for a while it looked as though the universities' very existence was in danger.

However, Barebone's parliament lasted less than a year, and under the Protectorate which followed, more moderate opinion prevailed and the universities 'resumed their old role as pillars of the social establishment' (Lawson and Silver 1973:160).

The 1650s

Despite the visitations and purgings of 'malignants', 'puritanism gave academic life new vigour' (Lawson and Silver 1973:160), though strict religious observance was imposed on undergraduates and students' morals were closely supervised. Anthony Wood described the regime at Oxford as 'discipline, strict and severe; disputations and lectures often; catechising, frequent; prayers, in most tutors' chambers every night' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:161).

Under Cromwell, who was Chancellor of Oxford from 1651 to 1657, a group of mathematicians and experimental scientists began meeting in Wadham College. Among the members of the Experimental Philosophy Club were John Wilkins, Jonathan Goddard, John Wallis, Joshua Crosse, William Petty, Seth Ward, Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. After Wilkins moved to Cambridge, the group tended to focus on the study of medicine, though 'the activities of the Club over the whole period were marked by their catholicity, their utilitarian slant, their use of collaborative enterprise and their concentration on new theories and discoveries' (O'Day 1982:263).

One area of interest among members of the club was husbandry: Wilkins invented a better plough; Petty a mechanical sower; and a glass beehive was set up in Wilkins' college garden. Club members created a chemistry laboratory and an observatory and studied optics and physics as well as medicine.

On almost every scientific and mathematical front there is evidence of enthusiasm and experimentation at Oxford but the university as an institution did little to initiate this state of affairs (O'Day 1982:264).
At Cambridge, Isaac Barrow was the first to propound the new scientific philosophy. He complained that mathematics was 'neglected by all and unknown to most' (Greaves 1969:65), but he was opposed by James Duport, Regius Professor of Greek and Fellow of Trinity College, and by Edward Davenant, who feared that 'admission of a new philosophy would soon lead to admission of a new divinity' (Greaves 1969:65). Barrow made important contributions to mathematical science during the Restoration period: until then 'the University did not rival the scientific advancements made at Oxford in the 1650s. The scientists who graduated from Cambridge in the 1640s and 1650s were mostly self-taught' (Greaves 1969:65).

One of the reasons for the universities' unwillingness to embrace the new learning was, no doubt, their desire not to lose their traditional clientele - the clergy and sons of the nobility and gentility, to whom science and mathematics were of little interest. So there was hostility to reformers' proposals for special colleges offering a realist approach to education where poor but able boys would be trained for the ministry. 'For most university academics too much was coming too fast' (O'Day 1982:265).

Nonetheless, reformers continued to come up with many proposals for a variety of new colleges - in London, the provinces, Wales and Ireland - and in a few cases there were 'some tentative ventures in the direction of putting these ideas into execution' (O'Day 1982:265-6).

The Westminster Assembly (a council of theologians and members of parliament appointed to restructure the Church of England) endorsed a plan for a University of London to train ministers; there was support, too, for a proposal from Hartlib and Petty for a university based on Gresham College. Petitions to parliament in 1641 urged the establishment of universities at Manchester and York, though like the earlier proposals for a university at Ripon, these came to nothing.

Oliver Cromwell's son Henry backed developments at Trinity College Dublin for a new college, library and free school where medicine and natural philosophy would be taught. An influential committee was appointed in 1651 to develop the proposals. Little progress was made, however, until Archbishop Ussher died in 1656. Henry Cromwell was anxious to purchase Ussher's library for the nation and he and his officers and soldiers contributed 2,200 to achieve this. 'This generous and constructive action of the army established what it was hoped would be a precedent for the active participation of the army in peacetime social reconstruction' (Webster 1975:228).

In December 1657 Cromwell submitted his plans for a new university in Dublin, to include 'Trinity College, a new college, a staff of public professors, a library building with schools, and finally a free-school' (Webster 1975:228).

Unfortunately, these ambitious plans - along with many others - were lost when the monarchy was restored in 1660.

However, a project endorsed by Oliver Cromwell did bear fruit, at least for a while. Following a petition from the citizens of the town, Durham College was established in 1657, financed out of the funds of the dissolved cathedral chapter. It was housed in the castle and cathedral buildings and took over the library, mathematical apparatus and a printing press. The Provost was Philip Hunton, 'a man interested in the new medicine among other things' (O'Day 1982:267) and the whole faculty appears to have been 'recruited from among the disgruntled reforming academics of Oxford' (O'Day 1982:267).

Hartlib notes that modern subjects were taught by William Sprigg and Ezerel Tong and that Tong proposed the

foundation of a mechanical school and acquainted me [Hartlib] with the whole design of founding a college of sciences with several schools and a library [and] a workhouse in Durham (quoted in O'Day 1982:267).
Sprigg attempted to secure full university status for the college, which 'annoyed the ancient universities and resulted in hostility to the new experimental venture, efforts to win Richard Cromwell's support notwithstanding' (O'Day 1982:267).

Durham college closed following the Restoration in 1660, 'when the bishop and canons returned ... with King Charles II and all the other forces of reaction' (Lawson and Silver 1973:161).


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