Medieval Education

Medieval Education

Only the rich and privileged could receive a medieval education, and this required payment although there was no way that medieval peasants were able to afford it.

After William I’s conquest of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, he dominated a relatively uneducated country. Those who were most educated would work in the church but a lot of people who worked within the monasteries had made an isolation vow and their work was also isolated.

The development of medieval England came with needing a population that was more well educated - particularly for the developing merchant trade sector. Trading towns started grammar schools which would often be funded by a rich local merchant. Latin grammar was an essential element of the daily curriculum as Latin was the language spoken by merchants when they were trading in Europe. Not many Dutch merchants could speak English but they spoke Latin, and hardly any English merchants knew Dutch or Spanish but they understood Latin - naturally, this was the reason for using the language. Merchants who wanted to trade well within Europe would not be able to without knowing Latin. The merchants enabled their firms to keep going by making sure their sons could also speak Latin by sending them to the grammar schools.

medieval education, education in medieval times, education in medieval england, medieval england education, medieval schooling, medieval universities, medieval learning
medieval education, education in medieval times, education in medieval england, medieval england education, medieval schooling, medieval universities, medieval learning

Every lesson in a grammar school was taught in Latin, and they were taught so that boys could recite new information from memory - no matter if they understood it or not. Books in medieval England were very costly and schools were not able to provide the pupils with them.

There was a grammar school in the majority of large towns by 1500, and one of the longest dating was in Maidstone (Kent). The size of schools was very small and all attending boys in most schools only had one room, along with a teacher who came from a religious background who would teach the older boys and in turn they would have to teach the younger boys.

Lessons would usually begin from sunrise and ended by sunset - so this would vary depending on the seasons and in spring and summer school could go on for hours, but in winter it would be a lot shorter. Lessons were also very disciplined and mistakes faced punishment with a birch or at least being threatened by it. This made sure pupils would not risk making the same errors again to avoid being beaten.

Pupils who did very well at a grammar school would then attend university. The University of Oxford and Cambridge were both founded during medieval England and were renowned learning places even then.

The son of a peasant was only able to have an education if he had the permission of the lord of the manor. If a family did not receive permission, they were badly fined. Today’s historians believe this was a way for peasants to remain in their place by the lords and not be allowed to become too educated, as they could have been a threat if they questioned things.

Not many girls attended a normal school, and girls who came from rich families were either home schooled or in another nobleman’s home. Several girls from wealthy families were even educated abroad. Wherever they went, their education was essentially the same - they learnt how to run a household so their husband was ‘properly looked after’. They could also learn how to play an instrument and sing, but mostly they were taught how to be good homemakers and wives.

See also: Medieval Studies

MLA Citation/Reference

"Medieval Education". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.