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‘A publick benefite to the nation': the charitable and religious origins of the SSPCK, 1690-1715

Gray, Nathan Philip (2011) ‘A publick benefite to the nation': the charitable and religious origins of the SSPCK, 1690-1715. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The stated purpose of the Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge was the establishment of charity schools which were complementary to statutory parochial schools in the Highland parishes of Scotland. The parochial schools were demonstrably unsuited for these parishes due to terrain, weather, infrastructure, the nature of settlement, and their vulnerability to the Catholic mission. Historians and commentators have tended to see the society through a cultural and linguistic lens, imputing to it the weak condition in which Gaelic finds itself today. A ban on teaching Gaelic literacy, which was not lifted until the 1760s, has been considered part of an overall strategy to eliminate Gaelic in the hopes of greater civilization in the Highlands. This perspective overlooks a broader significance of the society, which, as a corporation, extended charity beyond the landed classes and nobility, to the rising professions and also common labourers and tenants, through its use of the parishes to collect donations. It was also a sustained effort at establishing a joint-stock company in the wake of the Bank of Scotland and the Company of Scotland, and instituted transparent business practices to foster a reputation for financial probity. The moral aspect of its mission required good and pious behaviour from its teachers, for them to serve as an example for the schools’ communities and to persuade, rather than coerce, children to attend. The society was also very much of its time, with a role in a completion of the Reformation which was a common theme in contemporary religious and social circles. This completion was structural, with the Church of Scotland trying to secure its presbyterian establishment throughout the country, but also moral, with the Societies for Reformation of Manners in England and Scotland, and the Society for Promotion of Christian Knowledge in England, building the legacy of the Reformation and the providential revolution through an encouragement of moral behaviour. These were private groups, however, and while the SPCK developed a channel for charitable activity for the rising professional and middle classes, the SSPCK worked to produce a national corporate effort to support reformation and education in the Highlands.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: SSPCK, Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, SPCK, Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, Societies for the Reformation of Manners, Gaelic, Highlands, reformation, Scotland, Edinburgh, religion, education
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: MacGregor, Dr. Martin and Bowie, Dr. Karin
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Mr Nathan Philip Gray
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-3389
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:06
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/3389

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