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RAISED TO OBEY: The Rise and Spread of Mass Education​ (forthcoming with Princeton University Press under The Princeton Economic History of the Western World book series)

How the expansion of primary education in the West emerged not from democratic ideals but from the state’s desire to control its citizens

Nearly every country today has universal primary education. But why did governments in the West decide to provide education to all children in the first place? In Raised to Obey, Agustina Paglayan offers an unsettling answer. The introduction of broadly accessible primary education was not mainly a response to industrialization, or fueled by democratic ideals, or even aimed at eradicating illiteracy or improving skills. It was motivated instead by elites’ fear of the masses—and the desire to turn the “savage,” “unruly,” and “morally flawed” children of the lower classes into well-behaved future citizens who would obey the state and its laws.

Drawing on unparalleled evidence from two centuries of education provision in Europe and the Americas, and deploying rich data that capture the expansion of primary education and its characteristics, this sweeping book offers a political history of primary schools that is both broad and deep. Paglayan shows that governments invested in primary schools when internal threats heightened political elites’ anxiety around mass violence and the breakdown of social order.

Two hundred years later, the original objective of disciplining children remains at the core of how most public schools around the world operate. The future of education systems—and their ability to reduce poverty and inequality—hinges on our ability to understand and come to terms with this troubling history.

Pre-order on Amazon.

Assistant Professor
University of California, San Diego
Department of Political Science &
School of Global Policy and Strategy 
twitter: @aspaglayan

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