Much to Lose by Revolution: Nothing to Dread from Reform: Education Reform as a Means of Class Alliance in Victorian England
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Many historians agree that the Victorian period was crucial in the development of education in England. In fact Dinah Birch, in her 2008 book Our Victorian Education goes so far as to say that it was the genesis of the current English education system. However, the reasons for these education reforms and developments is a topic that is much less agreed upon. The reasons put forth by different historians are varied; ranging from increases in the need for a scientific knowledge to stress brought on by various religious sects and dissenters clamouring for their own schools and headmasters. Yet another factor commonly discussed is simply the drastic decrease in the infant mortality rate brought about by the industrial revolution and the subsequent increase in the amount of children living long enough to attend school. While I don’t dispute any of these influences, I would argue that the driving force behind changes in education at the time was class interests. By that I mean that class conflict, and attempts to dissuade it, was the engine which drove the Victorians to reform first their choice of enfranchised and then their secondary education system.