The contribution of the Society of Jesus to secondary education in Liverpool : the history of the development of St. Francis Xavier's College, c.1840-1902

Whitehead, Maurice

Education; Philosophy; Religion
April 1984

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© 1984 Maurice Whitehead. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

On its foundation in 1842, St. Francis Xavier's College, Liverpool was both the first Catholic secondary school for the middle classes and the first Jesuit day school in Britain. Served in its early years primarily by Jesuit masters from Stonyhurst, it inherited educational traditions dating back to the foundation of the English Jesuit college at Saint-Omer in Flanders in 1593. As the earliest British manifestation of the renaissance of Jesuit day schools throughout nineteenth century Europe, St. Francis Xavier's College developed initially along continental lines, imbibing the spirit of the centuries-old Jesuit Ratio Studiorum, revised in 1832.

By 1875 a new era had begun to dawn as the needs of one of the largest commercial and industrial centres in the British Empire forced the Jesuits to examine critically the type of education being dispensed in their Liverpool college. Rapidly the curriculum was extended away from its traditional base rooted in the Classics to embrace scientific and technical training. As a result of this development St. Francis Xavier's was, by 1883, the largest school, boarding or day, run by the English Jesuits. Thereafter stress was increasingly to be laid on the pursuit of academic excellence, with public examinations as the chief criterion of success.

Drawing on a wide variety of archival sources in England, France, Belgium and in Rome, the study sets out to show the way in which the college developed during its first sixty years; how those developments were viewed from -the headquarters of the Society of Jesus in Rome; and how the English Jesuits had to adapt to changing demands both from their Superior General in Rome and from economic and parental pressures at home. Finally, an attempt is made to demonstrate how the development of St. Francis Xavier's College influenced the foundation of a network of day schools run by the English Jesuits

Department of Education, The University of Hull
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