My dissertation research examined local efforts in the western department of Maine-et-Loire to build and maintain public primary education over the course of the nineteenth century. The department was selected for being active in promoting public schools at all levels (private, communal, and departmental), had a range of actors participating in the process, and not having a distinctive patois or culture (in Eugen Weber's formulation, it was more "French" than "Peasant").


Consulted Archives

  • Archives Nationales, Paris
  • Bibliothèque Nationale de France
  • Archives départementales de Maine-et-Loire
  • Archives municipales d'Angers
  • Archives municipales de Beaufort-en-Vallée
  • Archives municipales de Cholet
  • Archives municipales de Saumur
  • Archives municipales de Segré
  • Bibliothèque municipale d'Angers
  • Bibliothèque municipale de Saumur
  • Archives diocèsaines d'Angers
  • Archives paroissaines de Saint-Pierre de Saumur
  • Archives Lasalliennes, Lyon
  • Archives des Servantes des Pauvres de Jeanne Delanoue, Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent
  • Société des Sciences, Lettres et Arts de Cholet
Dissertation: "Ceding to the Circumstances"

"Ceding to the Circumstances":
State Institutions, Civil Society, and Running the Schools
in Maine-et-Loire, 1815-1875

(Dissertation Abstract)

In the nineteenth century, public schools transformed how French citizens understood the relationship between the individual, local authorities, and the nation-state—but not just through classroom lessons. Through an analysis of primary education development in the western department of Maine-et-Loire between the Bourbon Restoration (1815) and the solidification of the Third Republic (1875), my dissertation argues that debates over funding, operating and monitoring primary schools became a field to negotiate and delineate local and national values and responsibilities, ultimately structuring French attitudes and policies towards public institutions and collective ideals of citizenship. Rather than the still-influential state-centric model of development in the 1870s exemplified by Eugen Weber's Peasants into Frenchmen, functional systems of schools were developed locally by municipal authorities and an active education-oriented civil society starting in 1816. This education civil society comprised a range of non-state actors, from individuals leaving endowments for schools to subscription-based organizations promoting specific pedagogies to parish councils (fabriques) who owned local school buildings. Although state interest increased following the Guizot Law of 1833, this education civil society continued to work closely with communes to expand primary education. By the 1850s, however, the relationship between the communes, education civil society (especially Catholic organizations), and an increasingly powerful state education bureaucracy had resulted in open competition between the providers of French primary education. This competition forced new debates on the roles and responsibilities of communes, local civil society, and the state in the provision of primary education. The culmination of these debates was a political culture that privileged a direct relationship between the local community and a national body—either the state or the Catholic Church—that provided vital resources and direction; the institutional result was the emergence of a preference for centralized national systems by the mid-1870s. The trade-off was that local civil society, the providers of primary education earlier in the century, became merely pressure groups to support education policy determined elsewhere—a retreat of civil society from local praxis in favor of national politics.

Table of Contents

The Historiography of French Primary Education
Educational civil society: Between Sociabilité and Democracy
        Educational civil society in the Ancien Régime and the Revolution
Maine-et-Loire as a Case Study
        History of Maine-et-Loire

Chapter One: The Development of Primary Schooling in Maine-et-Loire

The Early History of Primary Education in Maine-et-Loire
Education under the Restoration
The Explosion of Schooling and the Guizot Reaction
Falloux's Experiment: Liberté de l'enseignement and the Decline of Civil Society
The (re)Development of Primary Education

Chapter Two: Not-So-Silent Partners: Educational Civil Society in Nineteenth-Century France
Educational Civil Society under French Law
Providing for Education: Congrégations and Liberalités
        Providing Education as Vocation: The Teaching Congrégations
        Individual Provision for Education: Dons et Legs
Owning and Providing Education
        The Fabriques
        Private Organizations
        The Operation of Private Organizations
The Question of Toleration: Civil Society without a Right of Association
        Relationships between Components of Civil Society
        Relationships with Authorities
Chapter Three: Building and Running Schools in Maine-et-Loire
        The Opening of the École mutuelle de Cholet
        Arguments against Education: Opening Catholic Schools in Cholet
        Opening Schools without Municipal Support
        The Re-Opening of the Collège and the First Primary School
        Education Outside the Collège
        The Shift to Catholic Education
        Small Communes and Réunion
        Russé's Efforts to Open a School
        The Opening of the École de Russé
        The First Narrative: Popular Hostility to Primary Education
        The Second Narrative: Inadequate Resources
        The Growing Reliance on the State and its Limitations
Chapter Four: L'État comme propriétaire? Owning the Schools in Maine-et-Loire
The Legal Environment: Schools as a Form of Property
        The Legacy of the February Ordinance
The Intertwining of Private and Public: Establishing the Schools in Angers
        The Suppression of the école mutuelle
Curtailing Private Ownership: The State Building Schools
        The Power of the Purse and the Selection of Teachers
        State Oversight and Inspection Régimes
Chapter Five: Alternatives to the State--Liberalités, Dons et Legs

The Return of Private Charity after the Revolution
The Établissements d'utilité publique
        The mutuellistes and charity
        Growing Concerns: The Rejection of the Association
Curtailing Private Charity: The Fabriques
        Why Fabriques?
        Vieil-Baugé and the Legs Langotière
Conclusion: Education as the Property of the State

Chapter Six: Pedagogies of Primary Education
Pedagogical Effervescence: The Pedagogies of Primary Education
        The Frères and Mode Simultané
        Enseignement Mutuel
        Towards a French Model of Education
The Public Judges Education
        The Education Pamphlet War
Inspecting the Schools
         Local School Inspection Committees
        Private School Inspection
The End of the Notables?
        A New Professional Inspectorate
        The Distribution des Prix
Chapter Seven: The Decline and Rise of Civil Society
Educational Civil Society and the New Generation
        The Society Sells Its Schools
        Mgr. Freppel and the Oeuvre des Écoles Chrétiennes
        The Ligue d'Enseignement and teh Oeuvre pour les Frères
Towards a Real State Monopoly
        The New Republican Governments
        The Final Separation of Church and State
Conclusion: Blockheads and Hearts of Gold


Scott A. Gavorsky
Social Sciences Department
Great Basin College
1500 College Parkway
EIT 130
Elko, NV 89801

(775) 753-2122

Updated on 7 June 2013
Copyright © 2009-2013, Scott A. Gavorsky