The History of Education Society seeks to further the study of the history of education by providing opportunities for discussion among those engaged in its study and teaching.

In this blog you'll find the latest news on research, events and literature in the history of education.

Friday, 29 August 2014

International Standing Conference on the History of Education 2014

The Past in the Present…Rainy day reflections on the scorching days of summer

By Jonathan Doney ~ @Jonathan_Doney 

As the rain pours down on the ‘summer’ Bank Holiday, the scorching sunny days of early July spent in London attending the ISCHEconference at the Institute of Education, seem so far in the past. But yet, this past is still a present reality…

Like all good conferences, there was a delightful mix of laughter, catching up with old friends and making new ones, food, music, and, of course, the wonderful privilege of listening to others as they presented their work. The insights gained into how other people see the world, how they mold together ideas from different theorists, different perspectives and different periods was both challenging and encouraging in equal measure.

Amidst such a mix of experts, specialists and professionals, the apprehension that goes with presenting your work to others grew day by day and hour by hour. My paper, ‘From Enemy to Ally: Ecumenical reconstruction of the 'religious other' and the adoption of world religions teaching in English Schools during the 1960s and 1970s’ was timetabled for the last day of the conference. Surely, by then, people will have heard enough? Tired, they will be ready for a break, ready for their journeys home…

The questions flooded through my mind. Am I stating the obvious? Have I overlooked something very simple? Is my argument watertight? I was reassured through a conversation with another presenter, someone for whom such presentations were a regular event. They told me that they too get nervous, they too ask these questions. I was comforted.

Then they told me that their main worry was ‘will anyone turn up to listen?’. So concerned had I been with my questions, I had not thought about this!

What if no one comes?

But the people did come. They listened, they engaged, they challenged. True to their word, a handful followed up our discussion with emails, sending papers that they had suggested I read. Nervousness was eased, and encouragement flowed.

So, as I return to work after the summer break, the comments, the encouragement, and the discussion of my presentation, together with the wider experience of the conference, continue to affect my thinking and my work. The past is not separated from the present, but continues to affect it, to shape it, and to help make sense of it.

I am very grateful for the generosity of those who engaged with my work during the conference, for those who shared their work, for the encouragement and the challenge. I am especially grateful to the History of Education Society, who through their Brian Simon Bursary made it possible for me to attend the conference.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Researching Petty Schools of 17th Century England; Surely Somebody Has Been Here Before?

By Ken Clayton

In researching the history of education in 17th century England, we might expect to find a number of books examining the subject in detail. To a degree this is true, but only to a degree; when it comes to petty schools, there is very little existing material and yet their activities would have affected a greater proportion of the population than any other type of school. This blog post outlines some of the sources and considers their limitations. 

Authors such as John Brinsley (bap.1566 d. in or after 1624) and Charles Hoole (1610-1667), both schoolmasters in the 17th century, wrote about education. In modern times, a remarkable variety of authors ranging from David Cressy to Foster Watson have written extensively about Early Modern education. In addition, many of the grammar schools that were in existence at the time have been the subjects of individual histories based on founding statutes, minute books, records of accounts and any other material the authors could find. So there is no shortage of sources to help the researcher concentrating on 17th century grammar schools.

Sadly, it is a very different story when considering petty schools. Even books such as Helen Jewell’s Education in Early Modern England makes only a few passing references to them.

It is true that some information exists. Charles Hoole, for example, included a treatise on petty schools in his A New Discovery of the old Art of Teaching Schoole (1660) but this deals purely with teaching methods. For example, Chapter II explains ‘How a childe may be taught with delight to know all his letters in a very little time’ (1660, p4). Clearly this would be wonderful information for anybody studying teaching methods of the time but Hoole seems to have provided no information at all for researchers interested in where petty schools were located, who taught in them, who attended them and how they were managed.

The discovery of The Petie Schole by Francis Clement, printed in 1587, offers the hope of a more informative source but, again, this contains only information on techniques for  the teaching of reading and writing.

Occasionally the Victoria County Histories provide a passing reference to petty or dame’s schools and sometimes a document provides a rare insight as in the case of the will of Sir Francis Nethersole who transferred buildings to a group of trustees in 1656 with the intention that a school be provided to teach boys to read and write and girls to read and do needlework. Sadly, the will provides little more information than that and there seem to be no records of the school having been built.

These passing references appear to make up the bulk of available material so it seems that the only way of collecting information on petty schools is to search for brief mentions in sources such as these and biographies. Unfortunately the biographies are often confusing rather than illuminating.

Adam Martindale (1623-1686) is a perfect example. His autobiography, edited by Richard Parkinson and published in 1845, made it clear that he was taught to read by his brothers, sisters  ‘and a young man that came to court my sister’. When he was seven years old he started at a school in St Helens, Lancashire but he did not explain what type of school it was. At that point, he was at the lower end of the age range for grammar school and his text suggests that he was learning Latin which, in turn, suggests that this was, indeed, a grammar school given that my own researches so far have uncovered no evidence of Latin being taught within petty schools.

Yet he wrote that his third teacher ‘was a woman […] that had some smattering of Latine’. In most cases grammar school founding statutes stated that a master had to have a degree which precluded women from holding such posts because they were not allowed into the universities. Yet Martindale wrote ‘She could teach us to construe the Latine examples of the English rules called the Parvular […] and Lillies rules’. It may be that she was able to do this because, according to Martindale, her father was a schoolmaster so he may have taught her some Latin (Parkinson (ed.) 1845, p12). But does this mean that she was teaching in a grammar school or that Martindale attended a petty school in which Latin was taught? Both possibilities run counter to the widely accepted understanding of petty and grammar schools. Hence Martindale confuses rather than illuminates.

So where does this leave the researcher? In general terms, feeling like a prospector in the Australian gold rush: sifting through large quantities of sand in order to find the occasional grain of gold.

On the other hand, the shortage of information suggests that the research is worth doing. If enough grains of gold can be gathered together, at least future researchers should have a useful source from which to work. On the other hand, perhaps there are HES members who know of better sources. If you are aware of any, please leave a comment below.


Brinsley, J. (1612) Ludus Literarius or The Grammar Schoole London, Thomas Man.
Clement, F. (1587) The Petie Schole London, Thomas Vautrollier.
Cressy, D. (1980) Literacy and the Social Order Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Hoole, C. (1660) A New Discovery of the old Art of Teaching Schoole London, Andrew Crook
Jewell, H. (1998) Education in Early Modern England Basingstoke, Macmillan Press
Parkinson, Rev. R. (ed.) (1845) The Life of Adam Martindale written by himself Manchester, The Chetham Society.
Watson, F. (1908) The English Grammar Schools to 1660: their Curriculum and Practice Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Monday, 18 August 2014

Call for Papers: History of Education Society Annual Conference 2014: Transnationalism, gender and teaching

The deadline is fast approaching to submit abstracts to present at the History of Education Society annual conference, at University College Dublin, on the 21st-23rd November 2014. 

We invite papers that examine the conference theme: Transnationalism, gender and teaching: perspectives from the history of education. Papers may also be considered that provide historical perspectives on one of the conference thematic areas: transnationalism and teaching, OR gender and teaching. 

Papers may address the conference theme through consideration of some of the following, though this list is only suggestive, and not definitive:
  • International education networks & alliance
  • Travel, transnational mobility and global citizenship
  • Knowledge formation & travel writing | education and the Grand Tour
  • Education and diasporas | missionary education
  • Travel scholarships, boarding and finishing schools, school tours
  • Education & experiential travel | teachers as ambassadors
  • Networks of schools and teachers | voluntarism, voluntary action and education
  • Life histories| history in the margins | masculinities and femininities
  • Heritage education and global knowledge| cross-cultural studies and the history of education
  • Nationality, language and schooling | transnational femininities | space and place
  • Academic leadership, public intellectuals and international education
  • Gender and university teaching | gender-differentiated curricula and schooling
  • Materialities of teaching | visual histories | education archives
  • Reading, libraries and transnational culture | books, publishing and the transfer of ideas
  • Teacher education and gender | teacher unions and professional societies

Keynote speakers

Professor Joyce Goodman MBE is Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Winchester. Professor Goodman is a past President of HES, former Secretary of ISCHE and previous editor of History of Education. She was awarded an MBE in 2011 for services to higher education. Professor Goodman has published extensively on the history of women's education, with a particular focus on: Colonialism, national identities, internationalism and transnationalism; Secondary education for girls; Educational policy and administration.

Professor Elizabeth Smyth is Professor and Vice Dean (Programs) at the School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto. Her research interests include the history of education in Canada , the history of the professions and professional education, the intersection of religion and history, history of teachers and the pedagogy of new technologies. She is co-editor of Historical Studies in Education, the journal of the Canadian History of Education Association.

Professor Dáire Keogh is President, St Patrick’s College, & Cregan Professor of Modern Irish History, Dublin City University. He has published widely on the history of popular politics, religion and education in Ireland. Professor Keogh is a founding member of the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) Committee, the body charged by EU Governments with monitoring quality assurance in higher education across the continent. 

The conference venue is Bewley’s Hotel / Thomas Prior Hall, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Ireland. The hotel was once a Masonic School. Many of its original features remain. 

Abstracts (500 words max) should be sent to by Friday 12th September 2014.

With many thanks to our conference host:
The School of Education, University College Dublin, Ireland