By Nicholas Orme
Yale University Press, 2006
Publisher’s Synopsis: Children have gone to school in England since Roman times. By the end of the middle ages there were hundreds of schools, supporting a highly literate society. This book traces their history from the Romans to the Renaissance, showing how they developed, what they taught, how they were run, and who attended them.
Every kind of school is covered, from reading schools in churches and town grammar schools to schools in monasteries and nunneries, business schools, and theological schools. The author also shows how they fitted into a constantly changing world, ending with the impacts of the Renaissance and the Reformation.
Medieval schools anticipated nearly all the ideas, practices, and institutions of schooling today. Their remarkable successes in linguistic and literary work, organizational development, teaching large numbers of people shaped the societies that they served. Only by understanding what schools achieved can we fathom the nature of the Middle Ages.
Review by Thomas E. Woods, from the Journal of Libertarian Studies: “It is, in short, an essential starting point for future research into medieval education, and an important contribution to the ongoing avalanche of scholarship overturning the caricatures that once constituted the conventional wisdom about the Middle Ages.”
Review by Tom Shippey, from the London Review of Books: “Nicholas Orme’s Medieval Schools is something of a capstone on a long scholarly career devoted to the history of education, running from his English Schools in the Middle Ages (1973) to Medieval Children (2001), and taking in thirty other studies listed in the bibliography, most of them the product of detailed archival research.”
Review by Jason Taliadoros, from the Medieval Review: “The aim of the work, as the introduction explains, is to tackle two pre-conceptions about medieval schools: first, that only trainee clergy attended; and, second, that they were “primitive places without adequate teachers, well-designed lessons, or helpful equipment”