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Beyond the Classroom

Studies on Pupils and Informal Schooling Processes in Modern Europe

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Edited By Anna Larsson and Björn Norlin

The research on educational history has traditionally focused on its institutional, political and pedagogical aspects, more or less habitually analyzing schooling as a top-down, adult-controlled phenomenon. Even if change has been visible during the last decades, there still remain important topics that are rarely discussed in the field. These topics include practices related to day-to-day school life that are not part of the formal curriculum or classroom routine, but which nevertheless allow pupils to become actively involved in their own schooling. This book provides historical case studies on such extracurricular and informal schooling processes. It argues that the awareness of such topics is essential to our understanding of school settings – in both past and present.
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III. Karlberg as a Total Institution: The Royal Swedish War Academy in the 1800s

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Erving Goffman’s “total institution” is one of those social science concepts that are routinely referenced but not always implemented to their full potential. The purpose of this essay is to investigate the extent to which total institutions can be used to describe and explain social situations at boarding schools, even though the concept was originally developed based on experiences from mental hospitals. This is done as an empirical study of life within the cadet corps at the Royal Swedish War Academy (Kungliga Krigsakademien) in the nineteenth century. The main objective of this study is to test the scope of the concept when dealing with historical studies of school environments.

As will be shown, there are several aspects of the concept that can be recognized in investigations of a Swedish boarding school during the 1800s. But there are also important differences between Goffman’s presentation of the concept and the results indicated in this study. The most obvious difference concerns the importance of the internal hierarchies within the group of internees.

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