Learning in Gymnasium and Lyzeum in Habsburg Milan (1814-1859)

Simonetta Polenghi, Valentina Chierichetti

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroContributo a convegno


The paper presents some results of a research carried out through archival sources and the class registers of the high schools of Milan in the Restoration age. The sources used allow a quantitative analysis that produces a detailed picture of the social family background of the pupils and their school performances. Milan, capital of the Kingdom of Lombardy and Venetia, had two Imperial Gymnasien and Lyzeen, plus a municipal Gymnasium and a private College. The research focuses on the pupils (more than 17.000 cases have been registered) showing their age, their marks and their social and geographic origin. Gymnasien and Lyzeen were overcrowded, since elementary school attendance was very high. The research proves that many pupils of the Gymnasien belonged to the middle class but also to low classes, whereas the upper class pupils prevailed in the Lyzeen. The high attendance constantly worried Vienna, which tried repeatedly to make the high school more selective, fearing social mobility. In fact, Pavia University was crowded and many pupils of Milanese high schools graduated and joined the Risorgimento movement against Austria. The discipline in these schools was rigid, the teaching mainly mnemonic, with a strict and obsessive system of exams. Teachers were particularly strict in the Gymnasium (but with differences among the three schools), because they had to control very crowded classes, composed of pupils of different ages, being put together for their competences, not taking into account the differences in the stages of development. Pupils morality and behavior were controlled out of the school, too; attendance to Mass was compulsory; religious education played a relevant role. Breaking disciplinary rules was severely punished. The Imperial schools had good teaching tools (geographical maps and globes, scientific laboratories and wall posters, etc.), the municipal Gymnasium not so much. The school results of the pupils of Gymnasien were not brilliant; they improved in the Lyzeen. Many pupils had difficulties in Latin, Greek and mathematics. Milan was a rich city, with many artisans and shopkeepers who desired a better education for their sons. The lack of Realschulen was one of the causes of the overcrowding of Gymnasien. Only in 1841 a Realschule was set up in Milan, but it did not really compete with the prestigious Gymnasien. Only after unification new Realschulen were quickly opened in Milan and the number of their pupils rapidly surpassed the pupils of Gymnasien. The municipal Gymnasium, which has always presented a lower level in a student’s background, was closed. The buildings differed: whereas the Imperial schools were located in the very center of Milan in old and prestigious buildings (the Brera Gymnasium, for instance, was in the old Jesuit Palace), the municipal Gymnasium had a more humble location and, because of an inferior financing, suffered from lack of didactic tools and stood less high in people’s favour; teachers were less strict and the social level of its pupils was lower.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteBeing a Student in the Habsburg Monarchy. International conference. Programme and Book of abstracts
Numero di pagine3
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2017
EventoBeing a Student in the Habsburg Monarchy. International conference. Croatian Institute of History - Zagreb
Durata: 18 mag 201719 mag 2017


ConvegnoBeing a Student in the Habsburg Monarchy. International conference. Croatian Institute of History


  • 1814-1859
  • Habsburg Monarchy
  • Milan


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