“The pupils formed in line and buzzingly passed a ragged book from hand to hand.”

What?  Only one book for all the students to pass around?  In England? In many of his novels, Charles Dickens describes how difficult it was for ordinary families to get any sort of education. In Great Expectations, Pip’s family had a hard time scraping together money for a teacher to provide lessons a few evenings a week. Unlike the United States, which by the 1830s was establishing a public school system based on a common education for all its citizens, England did not establish a national school system until 1870, and didn’t make education free for all children until 1890.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Washington Square Press, 1971, p. 69.

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