A Gentleman’s Education – The Birth of the Public School Ideal in Mid-nineteenth Century England


Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School from 1828-1842, is usually seen as the one man who created the English modern public school. Yet the public school movement in the mid-nineteenth century was more a response to the demands of a particular section of a rapidly changing society. Arnold and his disciples first voiced and then channelled this demand. Various changes stimulated the growth of public schools and the desirability of a public school education: the spread of railways, the competition for scholarships to Oxbridge, and the growth of examinations for the professions. Perhaps most importantly, a desire for a ‘gentleman’s education’ and the opportunities such an education offered was growing among the aspiring middle class Public schools offered an education in character: boys were taught first the acceptance of authority and then the exercise of it, ‘healthy’ outdoor pursuits would curb the tendencies of boys to slovenliness, and a classical curriculum would cultivate pupils and ready them for leadership. The demand for this style of education, however modified it now is, has not really disappeared.

Author Information
Oliver E. Hadingham, Waseda University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2016
Stream: International schools and educational goals

This paper is part of the ACE2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon