After about 1300, most schools in the Netherlands came under
secular rule. It managed to create good and accessible schools,
causing a hey-day for education in the 14th, 15th and 16th century.
As a result, more than half of the children participated in basic
instruction and literacy rate went relatively high. A contemporary
Italian visitor noted with awe that ‘in the Low Countries
everybody could read and write, even the peasants’. In the
16th century, the curriculum changed because of the Reformation and
the availability of printed texts. In this book, the favourable
situation in the Netherlands is compared with the rest of Western
Medieval and Renaissance schools have been studied before, but
never from the perspective of those who experienced it on a daily
basis. Recent excavations on the sites of late-medieval schools and
boarding houses revealed the objects used by pupils and teachers
for reading, writing, mathematics, and school life in general.
Combining those finds with texts and hundreds of depictions of
school scenes in manuscripts, frescoes, sculpture, stained glass
and early prints, the practice of education could be reconstructed.
The book gives a detailed overview of the material school culture,
allowing a rare glimpse into a late-medieval classroom.
Dr. Annemarieke Willemsen (1969) is art historian and
archaeologist and works as curator of the medieval department of
the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden. Earlier she published
books on Roman and medieval children’s toys.