What Did Medieval Schools Do For Us?

Nicholas Orme returns to the classroom to find out how boys, and girls, were educated from the Anglo-Saxons to the Tudors; and finds that the foundations of our education system were laid during this period.

Teaching at Paris, in a late 14th-century Grandes Chroniques de France: the tonsured students sit on the floor.

There are few worse insults than ‘medieval’, or safer ones, because those who might be offended are no longer with us! Where education is concerned, independent schools, old school buildings, unfashionable subjects like the classics, or strict regimes, can all be dismissed as ‘medieval’ without imagining what medieval schools might have been like. If anyone does imagine them, it is probably as few in numbers, poorly equipped, with unimaginative teaching, and pupils kept in order by vigorous corporal punishment – altogether different from what good modern schooling should be.

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