Educating Lyon’s poor : children, charity, and commerce in the seventeenth century

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Gossard, Julia Morrow

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Though the establishment of educational institutions is not necessarily surprising in Counter Reformation France as the church was obliged to foster education, what was innovative about Lyon’s écoles de charité is that “professional education” was stressed alongside Catholic doctrine in the seventeenth century. Catering to Lyon’s poor youth, these schools taught proper Catholic comportment, reading, writing, counting, and the acquisition of craft skills. Official and unofficial records reveal the charity schools’ daily practices and pedagogical exercises as well as the goals of the state, church, and local elite in fostering and supporting these institutions. The schools molded children into “moral, productive workers and faithful subjects” who could act as agents of the state, church, and community. Students had the responsibility of “elevating the morality, Christianity, and education” of their families, improving the “lower sorts” literally from the bottom-up. This thesis also addresses parents’ incentives in sending their children to these institutions.

This projects spans several historiographies including that of early modern education, childhood, and the Catholic Reformation. Though other studies have mentioned the establishment of écoles de charité as part of a wider impulse of charitable giving spurred by the Catholic Reformation, little work exists on the schools’ specific dynamics or on the relationship to the state and community embedded in the routine life of these schools. Additionally, this project uses “childhood” as a category of historical analysis, investigating how different early modern social groups used children to change society. Finally, this project engages the Catholic Reformation as these schools were part of a larger project to expand knowledge of Catholic beliefs onto the people propelled by local as well as elite interests.




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