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  You are in: Home > History > ‘A Victorian Class Conflict?’  
 

‘A Victorian Class Conflict?’
Schoolteaching and the Parson, Priest and Minister, 1837–1902

John T. Smith

John T. Smith is senior lecturer in education at the University of Hull. He has written numerous articles on nineteenth century education and two books, Methodism and Education, 1849–1902 (Clarendon, Oxford, 1998) and The History of Lady Lumley’s Foundation (LLEF, Pickering, 1990).

 


Villages and towns in the Victorian era saw a great expansion in educational provision, and witnessed the rise of the elementary teaching profession, often provided and supported by local clergymen. This book investigates the social and economic relationships of such clergymen and teachers who worked cooperatively and at times in competition with each other, their relative positions typified by the comment of one contemporary clergyman as ‘those of master and servant’. The inevitable result was a complex of movements in society in the final third of the nineteenth century that led to increasing clashes in villages, as one group (the clergy) sought to preserve its hold on its status and power, while the other (male and female teachers) attempted to secure their new role in society.
… The research presented is based on previously unused, original sources – church documents, HMI reports, newspapers and journals and private papers. It is not confined, as is the case with so much recent research, to the Church of England, but breaks new ground in providing a comparative analysis of the social position and educational work of Roman Catholic and Wesleyan clergy, and their collaboration with their elementary school teachers. This book is essential reading for all those interested in Victorian Education.

 


Preface
Acknowledgements

1. ‘A Regeneration of the Parish’: Wellsprings of Clergy Interest in Elementary Schooling

2. ‘The Real Milch-cow’: The Clergyman’s Role in the Elementary Schools

3. ‘The Parson’s Fag’: The Schoolteacher as the Servant of the Church in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century

4. Merely a Growing Dilemma of Etiquette?: The Deepening Gulf between the Victorian Clergyman and Victorian Schoolteacher

5. ‘Educating our Masters’: The Educational Background of Clergyman and Schoolteacher

6. ‘The Unlucky Jar’: The Straining of Relationships between Clergymen and Schoolteachers in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century

7. ‘An Enemy Within’: The Clergymen and the Board Schools, 1870–1902

8. ‘The Old Gods Crumble . . . ’

Appendix: Tables
Notes
Bibliography
Index


“Smith addresses the rise of schoolteachers as professionals in the Victorian era and, as a function of that rise, their often-conflictual relationship with Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Wesleyan clergy. Venturing beyond the traditional treatment of Anglican themes, the book carefully documents how the financial and educational status of teachers improved while that of clergy diminished. Smith identifies the source of conflict as the inherited superiority felt by clergy over teachers with expectations of deference to the pastoral office being complicated by their respective roles as employer and employee. Conflict revolved around issues of catechizing, management (schools as a means of social control), and content (acceptance of the function of secular knowledge within a religious context). While the topic has been addressed in earlier monographs, this one does so in greater detail and in a comparative way with a clear differentiation of trends in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Wesleyan experiences, while identifying the respective impact of the new school boards after 1870. Utilizing a range of hitherto neglected sources of information, Smith provides a useful case study of the rise of one professional class. Recommended.” Choice

“In drawing together Anglican, Nonconformist and Roman Catholic approaches to teachers, teaching and the management of schools in nineteenth-century England, Dr Smith delineates the essence of contemporary and commonly held beliefs as to the nature and purpose of education. Essentially approaching the theme from a ‘grass roots’ perspective, he shows how relationships among the main protagonists are affected by cultural or political change and, ultimately, by the more perceptive educational preparation of teachers and a developing sense of professionalism. His book contributes not only refreshing comparative insights but also a vivid realisation of the Victorian interplay of religious, moral, social and economic factors in education as well as the tensions they engender. It makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the philosophy of education of the period and to the discernment of commitment.” Professor V.A. McClelland, former Director of Institute of Education and Professor of Educational Studies at Hull University, and a noted biographer of Cardinal Manning

“Smith explores the expansion in education that occurred in Victorian England and the rise of the elementary teaching profession, frequently provided in the beginning by local clergymen. The author also examines the economic and social relationships of the clergymen/teachers with each other and the eventual conflicts that arose in villages in the last third of the 19th century as the clergy attempted to protect its claim to status and power, and teachers (both men and women) worked to cement their new place in society. The author based his research on original sources, including church records, newspapers and journals, and private papers.” Reference & Research Book News

"The usefulness, indeed uniqueness, of this book is that it examines the relationship between two of the key figures in Victorian society, viz. the clergyman and the schoolteacher, from a comparative point of view in confessional terms. The parson (Church of England), priest (Catholic) and minister (Nonconformist, chiefly Wesleyan) each played a vital role in the development of education in England from the accession of Victoria to the 1902 Education Act (the parameters of this study).
… Dr. Smith, who is an expert on the history of nonconformist schooling, is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Hull, an institution which, as readers of Recusant History will readily appreciate, has played an important part in promoting the study of the history of education, not least under the recent professional tenure of Professor Alan McClelland, to whom Smith pays fitting tribute in his Preface. That said, the author breaks new ground in drawing upon a variety of sources – archival and printed – from each of the principal Christian traditions under examination. What he manages to do, and in a pleasantly succinct manner, is to highlight the similarities and differences between the approach taken to elementary education by the three traditions, capturing in the process the form in which the profession of the schoolteacher emerged during the course of the nineteenth century.
… To highlight just one of the major themes of the study, the relationship between clergyman and teacher was pivotal in such developments, but it was not always a smooth one. In the Anglican and Catholic spheres teachers traditionally showed great deference to the clergyman – although in Wesleyan circles the relationship between teacher and minister was less so – but during the second half of the nineteenth century, and perhaps more so in Church of England than Catholic schools, the role of the teacher developed in a more clearly-defined manner, which sometimes entailed tension or conflict with the parson or priest. Indeed, this may be seen in terms of the growing role of the laity, such that in his charge for 1869 Bishop Browne of Ely declared it to be ‘altogether an anomaly’ to consider that the clergy alone were responsible for the work of God. The problem as far as teachers were concerned was that their role as assistant to the clergyman – at least this was how many of the clergy understood the function of the teacher – was in danger of being considered akin to a servant rather than a co-worker, and this the more so in the church of England which tended to replicate the class system more than the predominantly working-class Irish backgrounds of many Catholic teachers and priests. One of the significant results of Smith’s study is to illustrate how in rural areas, where Anglican schooling was at its strongest, the parson remained a very influential figure in educational terms, whereas in the towns and cities the school boards were more dominant, with elections thereto from among clergymen of various persuasions.
… Smith has read and researched widely within three Christian traditions, and this is no mean achievement when one considers the mass of evidence available, chiefly managers’ minute books. He is also sensitive to the fact that his readers may be familiar with the history of education within one tradition, but not all three, and to this end his succinct biographical endnotes are very helpful. However, from an archival point of view, and judging from the primary sources listed in the bibliography, it is somewhat disappointing to note that Smith appears to have found comparatively fewer documents from Catholic schools to be available in the public domain. Nevertheless, he has made judicious use of a wide-ranging body of sources, and readers of Recusant History will note with satisfaction Smith’s recourse to several articles published in this journal when summarising the background and context to the growth of Catholic educational provision in the nineteenth century. Finally, readers of this book from a secular or non-Christian background will receive a timely reminder of the central and indispensable function of Christianity in the development of schooling, and this the more so in twenty-first-century Britain where the educational establishment is increasingly minded to consider religious, and particularly Christian, faith as an anomaly." Rev. Stewart Foster, Recusant History

“Dr Smith’s study is a thoroughly researched and balanced assessment of its subject, drawing on a wide range of ecclesiastical and nonconformist archival sources, HMI reports, newspapers, journals and private papers. It provides ground breaking comparative analysis of the social status and the commitment to the extension of elementary education of Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy and Wesleyan ministers, focusing particularly on their relationship with the emerging teaching profession. It reveals that teachers in the Wesleyan schools were the highest paid, whereas those in the Roman Catholic schools were the lowest paid. It concludes that the provision of denominational education involved greater financial and other sacrifices from the Anglican clergy and Roman Catholic priests even after 1870 when increasing proportions of finance came from government grants than from Wesleyan ministers whose itinerancy meant that day-to-day responsibility was exercised more normally by a dedicated laity, who chose to allow teachers a greater degree of independence. This it is argued was more attuned to a growing sense of professionalism amongst elementary teachers and a diminishing degree of social control particularly by the Anglican clergy.
… The extent to which the increasing status of teachers in the late Victorian era, deriving from improved teacher education after 1846, provided the impetus for the emergent class-based politics of the early twentieth century requires a broader analysis extending beyond the terms of reference of this study, though Smith suggests that career antagonisms rather than traditional class antagonisms were probably as significant in affecting clerical-lay relationships within elementary school classrooms particularly in rural England where many incumbents were frail and elderly. The dramatic decline in the number of Wesleyan elementary schools from a peak of 912 in 1873 to a mere 738 by 1902 when they ‘had entered freefall’ is attributed to the lack of enthusiasm by Wesleyan ministers for maintaining their own denominational system following the creation of board schools, but itinerancy effectively precluded their active participation in school board elections.” John A. Hargreaves, Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society

“In 1872 a Buckinghamshire teacher protested that he was “the parson’s fag, the squire’s doormat, church scraper, professional singer, sub-curate, land surveyor, drill master, club collector, parish clerk, letter writer, librarian, washerwoman’s target, organist, choirmaster, and youth’s instructor” (60). The Anglican schoolteachers of Victorian England often felt, as this one certainly did, grossly exploited. They sometimes worked for a pittance and yet the expectations imposed on them were huge. Their resentments were voiced against their superiors, the parish clergy. The illustration and explanation of this tension is the subject of this book by John T. Smith, a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Hull in England. The theme has not previously been addressed at book length, and the discussion is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of the Roman Catholic and Wesleyan Methodist experiences for the sake of comparison.
Villages and towns in the Victorian era saw a great expansion in educational provision, and witnessed the rise of the elementary teaching profession, often provided and supported by local clergymen. This book investigates the social and economic relationships of such clergymen and teachers who worked cooperatively and at times in competition with each other, their relative positions typified by the comment of one contemporary clergyman as those of master and servant. The inevitable result was a complex of movements in society in the final third of the nineteenth century that led to increasing clashes in villages, as one group (the clergy) sought to preserve its hold on its status and power, while the other (male and female teachers) attempted to secure their new role in society.
… The research presented is based on previously unused, original sources – church documents, HMI reports, newspapers and journals and private papers. It is not confined, as is the case with so much recent research, to the Church of England, but breaks new ground in providing a comparative analysis of the social position and educational work of Roman Catholic and Wesleyan clergy, and their collaboration with their elementary school teachers. This book is essential reading for all those interested in Victorian Education.Church History

“The growth of the English educational system in the nineteenth century was extensively explored by historians of education, especially between the 1950s and 1980s, but despite much discussion of the role of religious bodies in elementary education, there has been no comprehensive examination of the relationships between the local schoolteachers and their clerical managers. John T. Smith’s absorbing study not only rectifies this but introduces a welcome comparative element, exploring the situation in the Roman Catholic and Wesleyan communities as well as the more dominant and recorded Anglican. This original approach is fresh not only in its conception but also in its use of sources: Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) reports, annual reports of the Committee of Council on Education, school managers; minute books, log books, clergy diaries and writings, plus contemporary journals and some novels, are trawled extensively and perceptively to provide a wealth of personal evidence on all the aspects analysed. The result is a thoroughly interesting book that brings its subject to life.
This is a very readable and welcome study, nevertheless, with a wealth of very interesting material, detailed appendices, and statistics that will be useful to those interested in religious and educational history and Victorian studies.” Ruth Watts, University of Birmingham, Victorian Studies

 

Publication Details

 
Hardback ISBN:
978-1-84519-295-2
 
Paperback ISBN:
978-1-84519-582-3
 
Page Extent / Format:
256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
 
Release Date:
Hardback October 2008; paperback September 2013
  Illustrated:   No
 
Hardback Price:
£49.50 / $70.00
 
Paperback Price:
£22.50 / $34.95
 

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