Medieval Schools


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Roman Britain to Renaissance England

Nicholas Orme

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A sequel to Nicholas Orme’s widely praised study, Medieval Children

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.

Nicholas Orme is professor of history, University of Exeter. He has published extensively on medieval religious, cultural, literary, and social history, especially the history of education.

“Orme is a champion of the much-maligned Middle Ages, …[and] shows great ingenuity in gleaning information from passing references in manuscripts, law cases, poems, even tombstones, and constructing a vivid picture of schoolroom life. … Orme considers the story in all its variations… He is well served by the beautiful illustrations, of a quality we have come to expect from Yale. … Orme has given medieval schools a voice to which modern schools would do well to listen.” - Seán Lang, Times Literary Supplement

“This [book] explodes some pervasive myths about [medieval children’s] education.” - The Economist

“[A] fascinating study of medieval schools. … The reader will be most struck by the wonderful flashes of everyday life in schools that occur throughout the book.” - Dan Jones, Literary Review

Medieval Schools is a book of remarkable range, eloquence and insight. Orme’s book represents a complete rewriting of one which he published over thirty years ago. A great deal of new material has been incorporated…the book breathes the freshness of an original piece of research.” - Nigel Saul, Times Literary Supplement

“Orme has spent his career uncovering the real dynamics of education and learning in the Middle Ages and this book…is the fruit of almost 40 years following the documentary traces of the early English schools, their teachers and pupils. … Orme vividly evokes the individual experiences of medieval schoolboys and their masters… Indeed, this book is as rich and wide-ranging as was an education at the best of medieval England’s schools.” - James Clark, BBC History Magazine

"This volume makes available important information about method and techniques that were successfully used in the classroom and could be adapted to modern needs, making it extremely interesting to modern educators who work outside of the circle of medieval studies. It also includes a wealth of bibliographical information for those who might want to study certain topics in greater depth."—Cristina Dobrescu-Mitrovici, Comitatus

"A very comprehensive study of English schools from Roman Britain to 1560. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"...a fresh, Schama-like take on life in the Middle Ages. Orme's writing is exhilarating and underpinned by profound scholarship."---Bevis Hillier, The Spectator

"...a minor masterpiece of social history by a writer who combines his scholarship with an appealing style and a moving empathy with the people whose lives he describes."---Jonathan Sumption, The Spectator

"The narrative is always engaging and sometimes racy...All in all, it is a fascinating and handsome book."---Church Times

"...Orme has told the story, and laid out the evidence, with a rigour and an accessibility unlikely ever to be matched. In one appendix you can even check a list of early schools, then cross refer to an index of school by county to see where you might have gone if you had been a medieval."---Tom Shippey, London Review of Books

Selected as a 2007 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
ISBN: 9780300111026
Publication Date: August 24, 2006
432 pages, 246mm x 171mm
50 b/w + 30 color illus.
The English Hospital, 1070-1570

Nicholas Orme and Margaret Webster

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