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Schools without a law: Primary education in France from the Revolution to the Guizot Law

Adrien Montalbo

Explorations in Economic History, 2021, vol. 79, issue C

Abstract: The French Revolution substantially impacted primary schools as it suppressed one of their major funding sources, taxes collected by the clergy. Nonetheless, the geographical distribution of schools and enrollment rates remained relatively stable until late into the nineteenth century. In this article, I show that understanding the reorganization of primary schooling after the Revolution is essential in accounting for these long-lasting variations. By using data at the level of schools and an IV strategy relying on the trade cost shock caused by the Napoleonic blockade, I first show that municipalities took over the control of instruction in richer and growing areas. Secondly, I demonstrate that, by subsidizing schools, municipal authorities contributed to lower schooling fees and to increase enrollment. Finally, I show that human capital accumulation was higher in the schools provided with public grants, which influenced positively the subsequent development of municipalities. Public investment in education is therefore a key determinant of knowledge accumulation in nineteenth-century France.

Keywords: Primary education; Public investment; Nineteenth-century France (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N33 N63 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2020.101364

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