The emergence of mass schooling during the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries is well-known. School enrolments rose, the number of teachers increased and schoolhouses were built in village after village. It became common for parents to send their children to schools where they were presented with a basic education and instilled with patriotism and bourgeois values.
This development, fundamental to the historiography of education, has been explained in different ways as a functional requirement, as a means of social control, a result of status group competition or state formation processes. This paper intends to shed new light upon the emergence of mass schooling during the nineteenth century, using the school building process in Sweden, 1840-1900, as point of departure. As a result of this novel approach, mass schooling is tied not only to well-known factors such as population growth, proletarisation and the intervention of nation-states, but to a broader socioeconomic and cultural context that includes the organization of the Swedish parishes, the political culture of the school districts, the modernization of the credit market, changes in local tax systems, the liberalization of the real property market, and the expansion of the construction materials market. Instead of being portrayed as a response to a need to moralize the poor, schooling appears as motivated by factors such as the social position of farmers and the sense of rivalry between school districts. Thus, a broader and more comprehensive explanation to the emergence of mass schooling and national school systems is accomplished.
This study rests on an in-depth case study of 66 school building projects in the twelve rural parishes of the Sundsvall region, Västernorrland county, located in the north of Sweden. As this study deals with the school building process, its theoretical point of departure is the historical study of building activities in early modern and modern times. To ensure that the study has sufficient depth and breadth, a large amount of printed and unprinted materials have been consulted, including primary statistical data from the Ministry of Education and Ecclesiastical Affairs, information from the Demographic Data Base in Umeå, fire insurance documents from the former Fire Insurance Agency, maps from the Land Survey Office, documents from rural courts and the multitude of documents found in church archives.
International Standing Conference in the History of Education, 24-27 June, 2015, Istanbul