Social position, gender, geographic location, religion, and other factors all infl uenced one’s chances of ever joining the community of scholars or artists, beginning with the very fi rst steps, learning to read and write. It is often diffi cult to fi nd much information about basic education, as children were taught by their own parents or by neighbors who could read, a process that left no trace in any record. Older women in many villages and towns ran small “cranny schools” which combined child care with teaching young children their letters and the recitation of Bible verses or psalms. Parish records from parts of France and England refer to village schools that taught reading, writing, singing the liturgy, and some arithmetic; in Italian cities, men taught middle- and working-class boys reading, writing, bookkeeping, and accounting in abbaco schools. Church ordinances in parts of Spain from the late fi fteenth century ordered priests and sacristans to teach reading and writing, and fathers to send at least one son for such studies, but there are few records about how well these aims were realized. Jewish children learned the Hebrew letters and texts of basic prayers at home, and then might attend a school organized by the synagogue to study the Torah and other books of Hebrew Scripture in Hebrew and the vernacular. In the towns of the Ottoman Empire, schools established by private individuals or religious organizations taught boys, and occasionally girls, to read, write, and recite the Qur’an. In the sixteenth century, Protestant reformers called for the opening of schools to teach reading in the vernacular and inculcate proper religious values, but this process proceeded more slowly than they hoped. There were more than a hundred different ordinances regulating the curriculum, hours, and structure of schools in the cities and states of Germany by 1600, but ordinances were often issued well before many schools were opened. By 1580, in the province of Electoral Saxony in central Germany, only 50 percent of the parishes had licensed German-language schools for boys, and 10 percent for girls; licenses to teach from England at about the same time indicate that some dioceses had English-language elementary schools in about half of their parishes. By 1675 in Electoral Saxony the numbers had increased to 94 percent for boys and 40 percent for girls. Those numbers are quite large, but it is important to remember that children did not attend such schools for the whole day, or for very long; boys often went for half a day for three or four years, and girls for an hour or so a day for one to two years. The level of literacy achieved was thus not very high. Though reformers regarded separate schools for girls and boys as the best organization, this was generally not feasible in smaller towns, and children attended mixed-sex schools. In larger towns and cities, girls and boys were separated, with the girls taught by female schoolmistresses and the boys by schoolmasters, both paid through a combination of student fees and salary; in Antwerp in 1576 there were seventy licensed schoolmistresses and eightyeight schoolmasters. Boys who had mastered reading in the vernacular might start basic Latin training, while girls were taught sewing and embroidery; all children received a very heavy dose of religious instruction, with readings from religious texts, hymn-singing, worship services, and prayer part of the daily curriculum. Catholic reformers also called for instruction in basic Christian doctrine, and informal catechism schools that taught reading and writing along with memorization developed in Italy and Spain; those for boys were staffed by men and those for girls by women. Many of these met for only two hours on Sundays and religious holidays, but they were able to get across the basics of literacy to at least some of their pupils; in 1550 in the Spanish dioceses of Toledo and Cuenca, about half the men brought up for questioning before the Inquisition could read in Spanish. Some of these “colleges of children of the doctrine,” as they were called in Spain, were specifi cally established for orphaned or poor boys, who were thought to be especially at risk of never learning proper religious or moral values. Though we now teach reading and writing at the same time, during the early modern period children were taught to read before they were taught to write. In part this was a fi nancial matter, as learning to read required fewer resources than learning to write – one slate or hornbook for teaching basic letters and a few psalters or saints’ lives or parts of the Bible for mastering whole words and sentences, as compared with many slates and then paper and ink and pens for writing. In part this was also a philosophical issue, for political and religious authorities regarded the most important function of education as teaching children the ideas of others, not having them express their own. The fact that people learned to read without learning to write makes measuring exact levels of literacy very diffi cult, for the ability to sign one’s name is often taken as the basic indication of literacy. In East Anglia, in eastern England, for example, 49 percent of male tradesmen and craftsmen and 6 percent of women in the decade of the 1580s could sign their names, proportions that had only risen to 56 percent and 16 percent in the 1680s. From other types of sources, however, such as wills and the inventories taken at death, we know that the proportion of people who could read was much higher, but there is no way of arriving at exact fi gures. The safest generalization is that literacy levels were highest among the urban upper classes of northwestern Europe, and lowest among the rural peasantry of south and east Europe, and that they slowly increased from 1450 to 1750. By 1750 almost all upper-class men and women could read, but still only a small minority of male or female peasants could. The greatest gap between male and female literacy was in the middle of the social scale; by 1750 in many cities of Europe the majority of male artisans could both read and write, but their wives and sisters could not. Parish registers, marriage contracts, and wills throughout the early modern period generally reveal that about twice as many men as women from similar social classes could sign their names, and that the women’s signatures are more poorly written than the men’s, so that their names might have been the only thing these women ever wrote. Once a Christian boy had learned to read and write in the vernacular, or even before that if his parents were wealthy and the opportunity was available, he might be sent to a Latin grammar school, or to a college or academy that offered many years of education. As noted in chapter 1 , during the Middle Ages secondary and higher education was largely controlled by the church, but by 1450 rulers and city governments had begun to support secular schools and academies. This process continued in the sixteenth century, with cities hiring and licensing schoolmasters and determining the subjects taught. Along with Latin grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic, boys might be offered Greek, natural philosophy, modern foreign languages, and arithmetic; some schools used medieval texts, while others adopted a more humanist curriculum centered on classical Latin works such as those of Cicero, Quintilian, Terence, and Julius Caesar. Grammar schools and colleges produced the literate notaries, secretaries, and offi cials needed by expanding national and local governments; they were supported by powerful patrons, who expected them to train their sons in moral values and civic leadership as well as in the more practical skills of rhetoric and mathematics. Protestant reformers supported these Latin schools, and they became the training ground for pastors and other church offi cials. In England, Latin grammar schools were established with private and royal funding; historians estimate that there may have been as many as 400 grammar schools in England by 1500, and another 400 opened in the century after that. In Protestant parts of France and Switzerland, schools modeled on the college established in 1559 by the reformer John Calvin in Geneva taught the Geneva catechism along with Latin grammar. In Catholic areas the church often objected to municipal schools, and sometimes accused teachers of heresy, but in the early sixteenth century cities paid little attention to such charges. By the later sixteenth century, members of the new religious orders that began as part of the Catholic Reformation decided that the best way to shape education was not to protest municipal schools, but instead to staff them. Grammar and secondary schools in France, Spain, Poland, and other Catholic areas were increasingly staffed by Jesuits or members of other religious orders, who also opened their own colleges. By 1556, the Jesuits were running thirty-three colleges in seven European countries, and by 1600 there was a Jesuit college in nearly every city and town in Spain, which offered free instruction for boys in Latin grammar, philosophy, theology, geography, religious doctrine, and history. These trained clergy as well as laymen, for an important aim of Catholic reformers was improved clerical education. Several female orders, particularly the Angelicals and the Ursulines, ran schools for girls, though these were generally within convents after the middle of the sixteenth century, when the Council of Trent reinforced the requirement that all female religious be cloistered. In Protestant areas, education for girls beyond basic literacy in the vernacular was available only through private tutors. Latin grammar schools and colleges were generally open only to Christians, with even converted Jews forbidden to teach in Spain in 1573. Jews in some areas established separate secondary schools for boys, which taught Latin and arithmetic as well as Hebrew and doctrine. Boys seeking more intensive religious training could attend a yeshiva, where they studied the Talmud and other texts; yeshiva studies often lasted many years, and centered on formal discussions and disputations. In the Ottoman Empire, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, colleges ( madrasas ) attached to mosques trained legal scholars, muftis (jurists who gave authoritative opinions – fatwas – on legal questions), and judges in Islamic law and tradition. Arabic was the language of religious law and Persian the language of elevated literature throughout the Muslim world, so that, as in Christian Europe, highly educated people across a wide area shared a common language. The most prestigious colleges, where professors received the highest salaries, were those established in Istanbul by Sultans Mehmed II and Süleyman I, whose graduates hoped for careers in the sultan’s household or as military judges. Universities offered the highest level of education in Christian Europe, and by the early sixteenth century there were over fi fty universities in Europe; more were established in the century that followed as Christian national and territorial rulers, like the Ottoman sultans, increasingly saw a need for educated offi cials and regarded founding universities as part of a ruler’s job. Italian universities, such as those at Bologna and Padua, focused on law and medicine, drawing students from all over Europe. Paris had the most renowned theological faculty. Students at Italian universities were generally young men who had already mastered Latin in an academy or college. Students at northern European universities such as Paris and Oxford included teenage boys studying for a bachelor’s degree; they often lived in residential colleges endowed by private donors under the supervision of teachers with master’s degrees. Paris and Salamanca were the largest universities in Europe, with thousands of students; most universities were much smaller, with several hundred students coming largely from the surrounding area and thirty or forty professors.
SOURCE 10 Royal proclamation about students’ evening activitiesKings and other rulers who had established universities often took a keen interest in both the scholarly and extra-curricular life of students. King John III of Portugal issued the following proclamation regarding the University of Coimbra in 1539, writing to the university’s rector, who was also a bishop: Reverend Bishop, Rector, Friend: I, the King, send you many greetings. I have been informed that some students of that university, not respecting what amounts to the service of God and me and the honor of their persons, go about at night with weapons making music and other acts not very honest through that city, which results in scandals for its citizens and residents and little authority and honor to the university. And since I get grief from such things occurring, I order that you inform yourselves of this and reprehend those who do this according to the quality of the person. Have the bailiff of the university called and tell him on my behalf that he keep a watch for this and comply with my ordinances. And thus the ordinances that I have made about this, for [if] not done in this manner I will attend to the situation [so] that it is well as it pleases me. You [are to] write to me about what is happening in this situation, documented well. [June 20, 1539] (Mário Brandão, ed., Documentos de D. João III [Coimbra: Universidade de Coimbra, 1937], vol. I, p. 153, trans. Darlene Abreu-Ferreira, in Monica Chojnacka and Merry Wiesner-Hanks, eds., Ages of Woman, Ages of Man: Sources in European Social History 1400–1750 [London, Longman, 2002], p. 48. Reprinted by permission.) Though older faculty often fought change, during the sixteenth century most universities gradually adopted humanist curricula that emphasized original Latin, Greek, and Hebrew texts rather than relying solely on medieval commentaries. Humanist teachers of medicine added anatomy and the study of medicinal plants to the reading of classical texts by Hippocrates and Galen, which slowly changed medical practice. Humanist teachers of law, most prominently Andrea Alciati (1492–1550), based their interpretation of Roman law on the text of the Corpus juris civilis , the legal code of the sixth-century Roman Emperor Justinian, rather than on medieval legal commentary. A reinvigorated Roman law gradually became the basis of municipal and national law codes in France and Germany, favored by humanist lawyers over older Frankish and Germanic law because it was more systematic and comprehensive. The Carolina constitutio criminalis , for example, a standardized code of criminal procedure drawn up for the Emperor Charles V in 1527, was gradually adopted in most of the territories of the Holy Roman Empire. In Spain, appointment to high administrative offi ces was limited to those who had studied law for at least ten years, which increasingly meant that offi cials had been exposed to humanist learning. The Protestant and Catholic Reformations had disruptive effects on many European universities. Religious wars led some universities to close completely for years at a time, and the secular authorities who had jurisdiction over universities began to demand oaths of religious orthodoxy from students and teachers. Pope Pius IV required all professors and students seeking degrees at universities in Catholic territories to swear allegiance to Catholicism in 1564, and in the 1580s Elizabeth I similarly required faculty and students in England to swear to the Elizabethan Articles of Religion. She dismissed teachers suspected of Catholic or Puritan leanings, and even executed several teachers at Oxford for refusing to give up their Catholic beliefs. Thus, by 1600, though university education was still in Latin so that in theory scholars all across Europe could communicate with each other, religious differences had made scholarly contact, mobility, and exchange more diffi cult.