In 1500 few people in Europe could read or write. By 1800, the era of mass literacy had already arrived. The change was momentous in itself, and in its implications. This text explores the importance of education, literacy and popular culture in Europe during this period of transition. It draws its examples from all over the continent and concentrates on the experience of ordinary men and women, rather than just privileged and exceptional elites.
R A Houston is Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews.