• Neil Tonge
  • Michael Quincey
Part of the Documents and Debates book series (DD)


An 1870 Punch cartoon depicts W. E. Forster addressing five urchins: ‘Well, my little people, we have been gravely and earnestly considering whether you may learn to read. I am happy to tell you that, subject to a variety of restrictions, conscience clauses, and the consent of your vestries — you may!’ In retrospect, Forster’s Act can be seen as the fulcrum of nineteenth-century educational development; despite the cartoonist’s barb, it provided viable answers to the two main questions which had bedevilled the issue from the beginning of the century:
  1. 1

    To what extent ought the poor to be educated, assuming that they should be?

  2. 2

    What form of provision was needed to effect it, a national or a voluntary system?



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Further reading

  1. E. G. West, Education and the Industrial Revolution (1975);Google Scholar
  2. P. W. Musgrave, Society and Education in England since 1800 (1968);Google Scholar
  3. J. Stuart Maclure, Educational Documents, England and Wales 1816–1968 (1973);Google Scholar
  4. B. Simon, Education and the Labour Movement 1870–1920 (1965);Google Scholar
  5. J. J. & A.J. Bagley, The State and Education in England and Wales 1833–1968 (1968).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Neil Tonge and Michael Quincey 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil Tonge
  • Michael Quincey

There are no affiliations available

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