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The Limits of Reform in the Enlightenment

The Limits of Reform in the Enlightenment: Attitudes Toward the Education of the Lower Classes in Eighteenth-Century France

Harvey Chisick
Copyright Date: 1981
Pages: 325
  • Book Info
    The Limits of Reform in the Enlightenment
    Book Description:

    Examining the attitudes toward the education of the lower classes in eighteenth- century France, Harvey Chisick uncovers severe limitations to enlightened social thought.

    Originally published in 1981.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5349-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. Note on Usage
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-4)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 5-17)

    “Enlightenment” and “lower classes” are, if not antagonistic, at least mutually exclusive terms. Themenu peuple, petit peuplepejoritavely thecanailleorracaille, or simply “the people” did not share in the Enlightment; they existed outside it. But this is not all. If the people did not take an active part in the movement, neither were they ignored by it. The people posed a problem to the generally affluent members of the world of the Enlightment, and this problem is of particular interest, for it focuses our attention on a conflict between an ideology and the society that produced that...

  7. CHAPTER I The Elements of the Problem
    (pp. 18-75)

    The term “Enlightenment” is generally taken to designate an intellectual movement which spread widely throughout Europe during the eighteenth century. To speak of “Enlightenment ideas” does not, however, suppose that these ideas had a disembodied and independent existence. Rather, it is simply a shorthand way of saying, “ideas that were commonly held by the men and women who shared in this movement,” or, as an influential school of French historians represented by Daniel Roche and André Burguière have termed it, by members of thecommunauté des lumières,or enlightened community. What is under study here is a set of attitudes...

  8. CHAPTER II The Debate on Popular Education to 1769
    (pp. 76-127)

    To define a distinctively Enlightenment attitude to the education of the lower classes is not a simple matter. Such a definition cannot be conceived in terms of yes or no answers to the question “Should the people be educated?” and this for two reasons. First, both sides of the question had already been argued in the seventeenth century, Cardinal Richelieu inveighing against the evils of extending education too far down the social scale,¹ while a royal edict of December 1698 required that all children up to the age of fourteen attend schools and catechism classes.² Second, both sides of the...

  9. CHAPTER III The Debate: 1770-1789
    (pp. 128-182)

    Introducing an Italian work on public instruction in 1773, theJournal encyclopédiqueobserved:

    Il a déjà paru chez toutes les nations éclairées plusieurs ouvrages sur l’éducation publique; mais la plûpart de ces écrits, uniquement consacrés aux moyens de réformer les études, n’offrent aucune instruction à la classe la plus nombreuse de citoyens, à celle qu’on puisse regarder comme le soutien de toutes les autres.¹

    The essay in question was not, however, devoted primarily to popular education, but rather presented another multitiered plan of instruction similar to those of Crévier and Baudeau. But it did not take long before the instruction...

  10. CHAPTER IV The Climate of Opinion in France: 1762-1789
    (pp. 183-244)

    After mid-century, and especially after 1770, educated Frenchmen came to feel that their society was functioning under stress, and even that it was in a state of crisis. And so it was. Historians have analyzed in great detail the nature and effects of the economic depression that set in after an extended period of prosperity in about 1770: the rise in prices, fall in real wages and series of bad harvests in these years; an increase in population so great that it began to outstrip the food supply; and a fiscal system that could not meet the demands made on...

  11. CHAPTER V The Impasse: Images of the People and the Limits of Reform
    (pp. 245-277)

    The attitudes of the enlightened community toward the people and popular education went much deeper than the response to a crisis, even an extended one. These attitudes were predicated on an accurate evaluation of the economic role of the lower classes, and ultimately upon the assumption that there existed a “people-condition” that was as necessary as it was wretched. The democratic and egalitarian strain of Enlightenment thought was opposed not only by a current of elitism inherited from the seventeenth century,¹ but also by the socioeconomic conditions that had generated that elitism. But before drawing any conclusions from the belief...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 278-290)

    In the preceding pages we have seen that popular education was the subject of considerable discussion during the second half of the eighteenth century. We have found that far from demanding that the lower classes receive extensive instruction that would allow them to develop a critical outlook and reach intellectual maturity, the great majority of the enlightened community wished to see them taught to read, write and count, and given a measure of physical, occupational and moral training. The purpose of this instruction was thoroughly pragmatic, being aimed at economic utility on the one hand, and social peace on the...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 291-312)
  14. Index
    (pp. 313-324)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 325-325)