Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Establishing control: methodism, artisans, and industrial education reform in Sierra Leone, c. 1870-1895  


Felix Kram (African Studies Centre Leiden)

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the efforts made by Wesleyan and Free Methodist clergy and laymen in conjunction with the emerging artisan trade union movement to establish government funded technical education. Various schemes to establish a technical school were proposed throughout the final quarter of the nineteenth century in a? very active and highly political Freetown press, although they remained unsuccessful until the 1890s. Using a variety of archival and newspaper sources this paper argues that efforts to establish such a school combined social and economic concerns over eroding standards of workmanship and declining artisan wages with religiously inspired moral claims about the foundations of a just society. Moreover, the churches remained politically influential in an era of declining African influence on the colonial administration because of their crucial role in the colony's education system. Indeed, artisans professed the social virtues of teaching children, particularly boys, a craft instead of preparing them for a white-collar career. The latter was presented as morally corrosive by artisan organisers and by contrast strict artisan apprenticeships were perceived to be morally beneficial to the community. The nascent artisan movement was intimately involved in the various Methodist churches through their own activities as lay preachers, trustees, and congregation members. Methodist trade unionists and their allies combined commitments to improving the quality of workmanship, regulating the supply of labour, and raising the social standing and economic position of artisans with instilling Christian virtue in the colony's young population. Government education was envisioned to strengthen the bonds between master and apprentice artisans, thereby reducing the oversupply of poorly qualified labour. The colony's populations' longstanding commitment to education was given a new twist to reorder the political economy. While the alliance between the colony's commercial middle class and the nascent artisan trade unions was partly based on shared socio-economic concerns over controlling the labour of young people. It was strengthened by a shared view of the world which had been instilled since childhood. Thus, education was crucial in three senses. Firstly, the artisan organisers of the late nineteenth century had cultivated connections to politically influential persons as early as their school days. Secondly, this education imbued with a shared conception of the world. Thirdly, education reform was used as a means to shape the colony's political economy.

Panel A02
History of education in Africa [initiated by URMIS - Nice]