Medieval Business Schools
| Peter Klein |
Contrary to popular belief, formal education in medieval times was not restricted to the clergy and the very wealthy. Nor was theology the most popular subject. Independent schools, unaffiliated with any particular religious body or royal institution and staffed by lay people, were common, and even taught business administration (writing letters, drafting contracts, keeping the books).
So says Nicholas Orme in Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England (Yale, 2006). (Thanks to Tom Woods for the pointer.) In Britain, grammar schools were often supported by wealthy patrons and were open to students of modest means. Notes Orme:
Most [English] schoolmasters were probably broad rather than specialized teachers, catering for a wide range of needs, so it is not surprising that a brand of practical teacher emerged by the fourteenth century (at latest), offering more focused instruction for careers in trade and administration. Such instruction might include “dictamen” (the art of writing letters), the methods of drafting deeds and charters, the composition of court rolls and other legal record, and the keeping of financial accounts. Since documents of these kinds were often written in French between 1200 and 1400, the practical teachers came to teach French too.
This illustration, from p. 69 of the book, depicts such a class. How did they do it without PowerPoint?