Backing the Normal Method. The Role of Local and Chief School Inspectors in Elementary Schools in Milan under Austrian and French Rule (1786–1859)

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The Normal method was introduced in the Duchy of Milan during Joseph II reign. The first Haupt-Normalschule for teacher training was opened in Milan in 1786. Felbiger’s pedagogy was then introduced in the Habsburg Lombardy. In 1791 the Tabellar- und Literalmethode and the common reading aloud was dropped off, hence the teaching became less mechanic. The Napoleonic governments backed the method, imposing it through the compulsory use of the Normal schoolbooks already in use in Lombardy. During the Restoration, the Politische Schulvervassung was applied in the Kingdom of Lombardy and Venetia by decree in 1818. The task of supervising the elementary school teachers, originally appointed by Congregations and then by the City councils was given in the Eighties to a chief school director. The Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy introduced the figure of three State chief inspectors with responsibilities over schools and universities, but the everyday local control was still in the hand of the city school directors, who were priests . The Austrian law introduced the figures of two chief inspector of elementary schools for Lombardy and for the Venetian region, as well as their two equivalents for the Gymnasium and Lyzeum. They had to be clergymen. The case of Milan is particularly significant, since the city was the capital of the Habsburg Duchy of Lombardy, then of the Napoleonic States in the North (Cisalpine Republic, Italic Republic, Kingdom of Italy), and finally of the Kingdom of Lombardy and Venetia. The school chief directors and inspectors of Milan checked the teachers and their behavior, controlling not only the correct application of the new didactics, but also the teachers’ educational attitude and morality. They had a relevant role in the imposition of the Normal method and in the implementation of the new legislation, but they also opposed the City Council or the government in some occasions, defending the need of opening new schools, of better paying the teachers, of protecting poor children. Their position seems to become stronger with the time. They were all clergymen and they struggled to keep their position in difficult periods like in the years at the turn of the XIX century, when the political government changed more times, with Milan being the capital of a State submitted to Vienna up to 1796, then to Paris up to 1799, then again to Vienna for 13 months, and again to Paris from 1800 to 1814. The battle against physical punishment was carried on with strength in the Napoleonic age, in accordance with Enlightenment educational theories. Seibt’s system of punishments and rewards, which shifted the means of control from the body to the inner feelings of honour and shame, entered in Lombardy during the Restoration, not in Joseph II age, that is to say with Milde’s educational theory. The cultural level of teachers in the last decades of the XVIII century was too low and corporal punishments were commonly used, but in Milan in few years the disciplinary system was really changed. The paper traces this process of gradual improvement and change in the disciplinary system through the institutionalization of school supervision from the last decades of the XVIII century to 1859 using archival sources from the State Archives and the City Archives of Milan.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteFrom School Inspectors to School Inspection. Supervision of Schools in Europe from the Middle Ages to Modern Times
EditorTomáš Kasper, Martin Holý, Marcelo Caruso, Markéta Pánková
Numero di pagine14
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2022


  • 1786–1859
  • Milan
  • Normal Method
  • School Inspectors


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