Monday, March 5, 2018

Commercial Schools--The Industrial Revolution and Education

At the beginning of the Regency era, in 1811, there were relatively few schools in Britain. Some dame schools existed, where lucky infants learned their letters. There were some Church of England primary schools, and some grammar schools. Across the country there were governesses and vicars with varying degrees of expertise teaching children a variety of subjects including the classics (for boys), needlework (for girls), a smattering of languages, a little deportment, and some history and religion.

For the gentry and nobility, there were boarding schools for both sexes. At these the girls were taught essentials of display and the basics of reading and writing. The boys were taught Latin, Greek and the gamut of classical literature and history.

For the lower classes, there was vocational training for both male and female children. There were apprenticeships with harsh taskmasters, and there was the household school of 'service' with equally grim butlers and housekeepers as teachers.

None of this education addressed the needs of the new industrial society. The Industrial Revolution was creating a new middle class. This middle class had money, a desire for standing among its peers, and a need for the tools which would help them succeed in business. A new sort of school grew up to fill this need--the commercial school. These schools flourished and multiplied right from the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Salisbury and Winchester Journal - Monday 11 July 1803
Hampshire Chronicle - Monday 15 July 1805
A telling sentence in the advertisement below makes clear the school's objectives:
"Its principal object is the qualifying youth for business."
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Friday 17 January 1806
Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 22 June 1807
The objective of the above school is made very clear in its advertisement.

The sort of books from which the new subjects were taught are listed in this advertisment, below:
Bristol Mirror - Saturday 07 October 1809
Hampshire Chronicle - Monday 22 July 1811
As the decades advance, the word 'mathematics' becomes more prominent as above. This was the subject the new world of business most required.
Bristol Mirror - Saturday 09 January 1813
This school above attempted to be all things to all people (well, boys and young men, at least).

This advertisement below lists instruction in practical subjects at 24 guineas per annum and classical subjects at 4 guineas each per annum. The classics have become 'add-ons'.
Bristol Mirror - Saturday 17 July 1819
This is a brave new world indeed; a world of industry and business.

'Til next time,



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