Religion and Relationships in Ragged Schools: An Intimate History of Educating the Poor, 1844-1870, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Religion and Relationships in Ragged Schools

An Intimate History of Educating the Poor, 1844-1870, 1st Edition

By Laura M. Mair


240 pages | 5 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780815394600
pub: 2019-03-28
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Focusing on the interaction between teachers and scholars, this book provides an intimate account of "ragged schools" that challenges existing scholarship on evangelical child-saving movements and Victorian philanthropy. With Lord Shaftesbury as their figurehead, these institutions provided a free education to impoverished children. The primary purpose of the schools, however, was the salvation of children’s souls.

Using promotional literature and local school documents, this book contrasts the public portrayal of children and teachers with that found in practice. It draws upon evidence from schools in Scotland and England, giving insight into the achievements and challenges of individual institutions. An intimate account is constructed using the journals maintained by Martin Ware, the superintendent of a North London school, alongside a cache of letters that children sent him. This combination of personal and national perspectives adds nuance to the narratives often imposed upon historic philanthropic movements.

Investigating how children responded to the evangelistic messages and educational opportunities ragged schools offered, this book will be of keen interest to historians of education, emigration, religion, as well as of the nineteenth century more broadly.


‘Laura Mair has written a book on the history of education in which the views of the schoolchildren can be heard. The Ragged Schools of the mid-nineteenth century, she shows, proved popular with their pupils for rescuing them from grinding poverty and giving them Christian guidelines for life.’ – David Bebbington, Professor of History, University of Stirling, UK

‘Laura Mair’s book on the history of ragged schooling is unique. Its detailed analysis of the diaries of Martin Ware and the correspondence between him and children formerly in his care is both illuminating and poignant. This is an important book, which historians of childhood in the nineteenth century will need to take note of.’ – Stephen G. Parker, Professor of the History of Religion and Education, University of Worcester, UK

Table of Contents


1 ‘The Glory of God for its End’: The Ragged School Movement

2 ‘A Real Specimen of the Street Arab’: Constructing the Ragged Child

3 ‘Having a Lark’: Children and Teachers in the Classroom

4 ‘But I Like the Boy’: Ware and the Compton Place Boys

5 ‘The Only Freind I Have Got’: The Scholar-Teacher Relationship After School

‘Here Ends this Season’: Conclusions

About the Author

Laura M. Mair is a Research Fellow at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, UK. She has published on the ragged schools in the Journal of Victorian Culture and Studies in Church History. Mair was a consultant to the V&A Museum of Childhood in connection with the 'On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants' exhibition. She is currently an advisor to London’s Ragged School Museum.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Evangelicalism

The study of evangelicalism is a well-developed discipline with a strong international readership. A major movement within global Christianity, it continues to attract considerable scholarly and ‘popular’ interest on both sides of the Atlantic and further afield. The Routledge Studies in Evangelicalism series publishes monographs and collaborative volumes of significant original research in any aspect of evangelical history or historical theology from the eighteenth century to the present, and is global in its scope. This series will appeal both to the flourishing community of scholars of religious history and to informed practitioners within the evangelical constituency.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
HISTORY / Social History
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Christianity / History
RELIGION / Education
RELIGION / Religion, Politics & State
RELIGION / Christian Education / Children & Youth