Literacy Drives in Preindustrial Germany

  • Richard L. Gawthrop


Among the chief assets Germany possessed by the time it had begun to industrialize was an uncommonly literate labor force. By 1850 Prussia’s literacy rate—not unrepresentative of that of the rest of the German states—had reached eighty-five percent. This Prussian rate, which assumes a standard of literacy consisting of both reading and writing skills, compares with a mid-century rate of sixty-one percent for France (reading only) and fifty-two percent for England (reading and writing).1 Although historians have assumed that high literacy rates played an important role in the rapidity of German industrialization in the nineteenth century,2 they have failed to give a satisfactory explanation for this early achievement of mass literacy.3 One reason for this failure is their unwillingness to view the literacy drives of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries as having exerted a sufficiently powerful impact on society to account for the unusually high literacy rates of nineteenth-century Germany.


Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Sixteenth Century School Attendance Mass Literacy 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard L. Gawthrop
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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