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The making of a liberal education: Political economy of the Austrian school reform, 1865 – 1880

Tomas Cvrcek () and Miroslav Zajicek ()

Explorations in Economic History, 2019, vol. 73, issue C, -

Abstract: The rise of mass schooling is an important contributor to modern economic growth. But its form, content, scale and manner of provision are all matters of public policy. The rise of modern schooling is frequently cast as a product of broadened suffrage and stronger political voice of the masses, which overcame the political opposition from old ruling elites. We investigate this hypothesis, using the case of a school reform undertaken in Imperial Austria in 1869. We show that large landowners were mildly in favor of school modernization, albeit less than urban and business interests. The strongest opposition came from the rural areas where the suffrage was in fact most numerous. The reform passed in spite of their opposition but, interestingly, post-reform developments suggest that passive resistance to it continued in the countryside in spite of the alleged benefits that education was billed to bring the masses.

Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2018.07.003

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