Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Matthew Gerber

Second Advisor

Martha Hanna

Third Advisor

Celine Dauverd


Over the course of the eighteenth-century in France discussions about primary education became infused with concurrent political and religious tensions. Philosophical debates surrounding children's natural abilities to learn and a new emphasis on the practical utility of education supplanted the traditional focus on creating good Catholics, especially after the nation's main teaching body, the Jesuits, were expelled from France in 1762. Thereafter, educational theorists proposed plans for a state-run, national program that would train useful citizens, thoroughly infused with religion to instill morality. Dozens of politicians, scientists, philosophers and even priests wrote plans that advocated a secular-run education system that retained Christian instruction. Rather than rejecting religion entirely, these plans embraced Christian devotion and piety as the best tools to raise virtuous, hardworking, and patriotic French men and women. They reflect the rise of anti-clericalism within France leading up to the Revolution, and an increase in popular piety.