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The Pen and the PeopleEnglish Letter Writers 1660-1800$
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Susan Whyman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199532445

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199532445.001.0001

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Letters and Literacy

Letters and Literacy

Farmers and Workers in Northern England

(p.75) 3 Letters and Literacy
The Pen and the People

Susan E. Whyman

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents case studies of farmers and workers in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and Cumbria which show how villages without schools could produce competent letter writers. The case studies are linked to the economic and social conditions of northern England including transportation, communication, and the industrial revolution. The surprising fluency and literary culture of lower-sort letter writers complicates notions of a literacy gap between north and south, as well as agricultural and urban areas. Hidden types of informal education and unlicensed schools are shown to have existed. The importance of family and community support in achieving literacy is discussed. The chapter questions accepted views that literacy was rare in England before 1800.

Keywords:   literacy, farmers, workers, northern England, social conditions, industrial revolution, transportation, communication, unlicensed schools, family

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