Gender, National Identity, and Education

Perceptions of Distinctiveness of the Scottish System of Education Between 1872 and 1918
  • Jane McDermidEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


The place of women in Scottish educational history has been asserted since the 1980s, yet not only is their integration into mainstream studies halting, but any gender analysis is effectively limited to them. In 1961 George Davie challenged the myth of “the democratic intellect,” so closely associated with the Presbyterian Reformation and so central to notions of Scottish national identity, claiming that it was in fact socially hierarchical but overlooking gender. Feminist historians then exposed the myth as exclusively masculine. Yet general educational histories still tend to limit consideration of gender to a discussion of females: the only reference to gender in the index of the landmark The Edinburgh History of Education in Scotland is in a subsection (“gendered curriculum”) of the entry for girls’ education, while there is no entry on either boys’ education or masculinity. As the editors Robert Anderson, Mark Freeman, and Lindsay Paterson acknowledge, discussions of Scottish education invariably return to the belief that it has been nationally distinctive particularly in its social inclusion, bound up in the “democratic intellect,” compared not only to England but also internationally. This chapter will apply a gendered analysis to the history of Scottish education, examining perceptions of distinctiveness and national identity with a particular focus on the period between the Education Act of 1872, which sought to revive the tradition of common provision across the country, and the Act of 1918 which brought Catholics, the largest minority in Scotland, into the national system.


Democratic intellect Distinctiveness Feminization Gender National identity 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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