Portraits in the Characters of the Muses in the Temple of Apollo, by Richard Samuel (1778) © National Portrait Gallery, London

Although not allowed to study at university, women in 18th-century England still found ways to join – and challenge – the scholarly world.

New universities sprang up across medieval Europe at a rapid rate, yet at the start of the 19th century, England had only two: Oxford and Cambridge. For centuries, England’s two oldest institutions enjoyed a strict duopoly on higher learning, enforced by law. Why were they allowed to?

Boy writing on a slate, engraving, c.1880.

‘Word blindness’ was a recognised condition more than a century ago. But it was not until the 1970s that it began to be accepted by the medical establishment.

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The First World War transformed women-only Somerville College. It became a hospital for convalescing soldiers, housed poets and writers and changed forever the fortunes of female students, writes Frank Prochaska. 

School tools: whale-bone writing-tablet and styluses from the middle Anglo-Saxon period

Schoolboys forget their books, lose their pens and laugh at dirty jokes. This was true even in the rigorous atmosphere of the Anglo-Saxon classroom.

Still remembered: Joseph Lancaster in an illustration from Our World’s Greatest Benefactors, 1888.

One of the 19th-century pioneers of education for the working class is emerging from neglect.

To ask the value of speech is like asking the value of life.’ Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone and advocate of deaf education.

Bell is most known for the invention of the first patented telephone, but his work on deafness and speech sounds should not be forgotten.

Joanna Richardson describes how, in 1865, Miss Buss told a School Enquiry Commission: 'I am sure that the girls can learn anything they are taught in an interesting manner.’

Barbara Scott describes how a tutor to royal princesses and to the Bonaparte family, Henriette Campan, became a pioneer of girl's education in France.