'Le pays où on ne sait pas lire' : literacy, numeracy and human capital in the commercial hub of the Austrian Netherlands (1715-75)'Le pays où on ne sait pas lire' : literacy, numeracy and human capital in the commercial hub of the Austrian Netherlands (1715-75)
Faculty of Arts. History
Centre for Urban History
European history quarterly. - London, 1984, currens
44(2014):2, p. 223-243
University of Antwerp
Files of the local criminal court in Antwerp - the Hoogere Vierschaar - are used in this article to assess the evolution of literacy and numeracy in Antwerp. Both forms of human capital are habitually seen as strongly intertwined, yet our evidence shows that they were not always geared to one another. Literacy did not grow significantly in Antwerp during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while it reached its high-water mark in other European towns. Faced by a severe economic crisis, the local government had to trim down free public education in Sunday schools, while private boarding schools (Duytsche scholen) saw their number of pupils fall abruptly as the recession impoverished a wide swath of society. Numeracy, however, followed a different course. Despite the economic crisis, people's age awareness took a huge leap forward in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries as basic arithmetic skills were bound to a more informal, everyday training. Moreover, this idea, that literacy and numeracy were not always geared to each other is buttressed by marked social and gender variations.