Education and Statism in Continental Europe

  • Andy Green


The origins of formal schooling in continental Europe lay with the churches and religious societies. They were the instruments of early educational expansion and the first authors of systematic forms of teaching. However, the transformation of religious education into formal systems of schooling, designed to serve secular and national ends, was the work of the state, in a protracted process which went back in many cases to the sixteenth century. It was the Reformation which first thrust education into the political arena and prompted extensive royal interventions in schooling. Later the absolutist state also ‘acted on’ religious education, always dependent on it, but consciously bending it to its particular requirements. Most notably it was during the eighteenth century, the high period of absolutism and the era of ‘enlightened despotism’, that the machinery of national education was first decisively prefigured in legislation on compulsory attendance, state funding and inspection for schools. The infant education systems which these two forces spawned were consolidated in the early nineteenth century either by absolutist states in their final, sometimes ‘liberal’, hour, as in Prussia and Austria, or by post-revolutionary bourgeois regimes as in France, Switzerland and Holland.


Middle Class State Formation Secondary Education National Education Absolutist State 
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Copyright information

© Andy Green 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andy Green
    • 1
  1. 1.Thames PolytechnicLondonUK

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