Today I am continuing with my last week’s exploration of the vast stretches of the archived materials. Another thing that you can find in our archives are the copies of printed Minutes from the Council Committee on Education. The name might seem overly official and boring. That one could scare off potential reader and says nothing on what really lies in the depths of those old tomes. However it is surprisingly riveting read and useful one too, for more than one kind of researcher:
- A statistician historian would have a ball with these. There are plenty of tables and data to work with if one wants to know the levels of literacy and numeracy in the Victorian era.
- Anyone who want to know the state of education back then, there are extensive reports by the school inspectors. Those are written in clear and accessible language. They describe the schools themselves and the people that were involved in the education at that time.
- If one was ever wondering what kind of education the children in the workhouses had, that’s the place to look. There are extensive treatises on that subject with detailed figures given.
- There are the designs of school furniture and buildings. For all I know, those are the first attempts to create uniformed facilities for students to use.
We are used to think that the past is a land where everything is simpler and easier. We need a remainder that that past was not some fairy-tale land. It was hard and life was as complicated as it is today, if not even more so. I can only imagine people that compiled that knowledge, travelling hundreds of miles over the muddy country roads between one school and another, spending endless hours in workhouses, testing poor children on their numeracy and literacy skills, slavering over the drawing boards to design the desks and buildings, no computers or even calculators to help. Minutes from the Council Committee on Education is history undiluted, no nostalgia or pink glasses involved.
But there is even more to explore and I will come back to do more expeditions in the land of the archives.
Souruce: Minutes from the Council Committee on Education 1849