The Literacy Campaign in Scotland, 1560–1803

  • Rab Houston


The literacy program that was initiated in Scotland at the time of the Reformation and carried through by legislation in the seventeenth century was the first truly national literacy campaign. Some principalities and city states of Protestant Europe had tried to encourage literacy from the beginning of the sixteenth century. However, these initiatives were small in scale and enjoyed little success compared with the Scottish aim to organize education at a national level. Government intervention helped to realize the aim of a controlled and systematized educational network at a much earlier date than in any other European nation state. This chapter assesses the aims, methods and achievements of the Scottish literacy campaign between the Reformation and the time of the French Revolution. Working side by side, church and state sought to create a national, universal, and religiously oriented educational system centered on a school in every parish.1 Legislation between 1616 and 1696 set up the parochial school system, administered by the church in rural areas and by the secular authorities in the towns. It was designed to be available to all children, however poor their circumstances, and was to be paid for by a levy on the more prosperous inhabitants of particular parishes.


Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Parish School Gifted Child 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rab Houston
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Modern HistoryUniversity of St. AndrewsSt. Andrews, FifeScotland

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