Professor Wrightson begins by assessing the state of education in the late medieval period and then discusses the two cultural forces (Renaissance humanism and the Reformation) which lie behind the educational expansion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. While there were distinct hierarchies of learning in the period (with women and the lower orders having far fewer educational opportunities open to them than other members of the social order), this was genuinely a revolutionary period in terms of education. Attendance at the universities and the Inns of Court expanded exponentially, educational ideals for the elite were transformed, standards of clerical education reached unprecedented heights, grammar schools and petty schools were founded across the country and, by the end of the period, literacy levels in the population were much higher. England was now a partially literate society and was well on its way to achieving mass literacy. A threshold had been crossed, and this shift had far-reaching cultural and political effects.
Wrightson, English Society, pp. 183-99
Reay, Popular Cultures, chapter 2
This course is intended to provide an up-to-date introduction to the development of English society between the late fifteenth and the early eighteenth centuries. Particular issues addressed in the lectures will include: the changing social structure; households; local communities; gender roles; economic development; urbanization; religious change from the Reformation to the Act of Toleration; the Tudor and Stuart monarchies; rebellion, popular protest and civil war; witchcraft; education, literacy and print culture; crime and the law; poverty and social welfare; the changing structures and dynamics of political participation and the emergence of parliamentary government.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2009.