Reviewed by:
Schools and Schooling in Late Medieval Germany: Regensburg, 1250–1500. By David L. Sheffler. [Education and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Vol. 13.] (Leiden and Boston: Brill. 2008. Pp. xvi, 417. $186.00. ISBN 978-9-004-16664-6.)

This is a very detailed study that brings to light from archives, manuscripts, and printed sources everything there is to know about education in late medieval Regensburg. Chapter 1 reviews the scholarship on German schooling in the late Middle Ages; it is a useful chapter for nonspecialists unfamiliar with a topic on which much recent work has been done. Chapter 2 analyzes Regensburg's schools in detail. Sheffler finds that Regensburg had ecclesiastical schools (collegiate schools, the cathedral school, and schools of the mendicant orders) and private masters, but no municipal school. The education that they provided seems to have been competent and extensive. He teases out indirectly from the documents a little information about the education of girls and women. And he notes that the Jewish community, some 500 to 600 strong, must have had a large elementary school, although documentation is lacking. [End Page 113]

Chapter 3 takes the reader inside the schools in order to determine what was taught. Most of it was standard medieval fare found elsewhere in Europe. The teachers and students of Regensburg also used the fifteenth-century text Es tu scolaris?, which was an attractive question-and-answer Latin grammar manual. Sheffler finds that teachers taught good morals and religious matter as well as Latin. The most interesting figure to appear in Regensburg was Canon Conrad of Megenberg (d. 1374) who had many comments to make about the local schools. Sheffler's examination of inventories of the libraries of some ecclesiastical institutions reveals that the works of such authors as Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and Marsilio Ficino were beginning to appear by the end of the fifteenth century. This was evidence of the penetration of Italian Renaissance humanism, although as a committed medievalist Sheffler cannot bring himself to use that awful word "Renaissance." Chapter 4 is an interesting and very detailed analysis of residents, mostly clergymen, from Regensburg who studied at universities. The number increased greatly after 1375, thanks to more university foundations in central Europe and a greater desire for university education. The University of Vienna was the most popular destination for Regensburg students.

In his conclusion Sheffler speculates that Regensburg had a literacy rate of at least 14 percent and probably a little higher, a figure consistent with other areas of northern Europe. He emphasizes the importance of ecclesiastical schools and comments that the mendicant order convent schools offered a curriculum rivaling that of universities. By contrast, Sheffler does not see the growth of "bürgerliche Bildung," i.e., education for the lay middle class, in Regensburg. Nearly 150 pages of biographical and other data on students, teachers, and university students, plus several useful tables and a very extensive bibliography, complete the book. Criticisms are minor. The author does not translate Latin and German quotations, which leaves a reader who is not fluent in late-medieval German at sea sometimes. There are a number of typos in the notes. The book does not advance any startling theses; one would be skeptical if it did. The book is an extraordinarily well-documented study full of detailed information about German education that other scholars will find useful.

Paul F. Grendler
University of Toronto (Emeritus) and Chapel Hill, NC

Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.