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Classroom Struggle

Organizing Elementary School Teaching in the 19th Century


Edited By Marcelo Caruso

During the institutionalization of mass schooling in the 19 th century, teaching large groups of children became both a necessity and a matter of regulation. For officials and inspectors the systematization of classroom interactions was important for effective results. However, while systematization could bring about the constant attention of children and their uninterrupted work, interactions themselves were difficult to control. Rationalized models of classroom organization provided alternatives for managing large groups before age grading became the dominant pattern of organizing interactions. The contributions in this volume explore diverse paths of transition towards modern classroom organization in different countries, allowing transnational perspectives and comparisons.
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Mass Teaching without the Masses: Challenges during the Rise of Mass Education in Sweden, approx. 1810–1880

The emergence of mass education in Sweden


As with other major social changes, the emergence of mass education was also characterized by country-specific conditions. In this context it can be emphasized that until the beginning of the 1900s, Sweden was a relatively poor country. Its state apparatus was characterized by strong means of coercion, which developed primarily during the 1600s, when the country needed to extract resources to wage war. An important instrument in this context was the ecclesiastical administration, which after the Protestant Reformation became a tool in the hands of rulers to control the population.1 This organisation was highly decentralized, which particularly affected the emergence of mass teaching.2

Another important factor for understanding the development of education was the fact that Sweden was a sparsely populated country. The population only increased from six to no more than thirteen inhabitants per square kilometre during the 1800s. Moreover, Sweden was distinctly rural. The urban population amounted to no more than 10 per cent of the population in 1850, and around 1900 about 80 per cent of the population still lived in rural areas.3

In this text I will discuss the importance of these conditions in relation to the teaching systems used in Swedish schools, particularly during the 1800s. Before that I will give a brief description of how the Swedish elementary school system developed. ← 157 | 158 →

In international comparison, Swedish popular education (folkundervisning) seems to have developed relatively early and in a specific pattern.4 Scholarly evidence suggest that one...

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