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The transition to a literate society : the case of Ireland.

Coakley, Maurice (2008) The transition to a literate society : the case of Ireland. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Has writing changed history or has it merely recorded historical change? Within the field of Literacy Studies, opinions on the role of writing in bringing about historical change have tended to polarise into two camps. The 'autonomous' school sees literacy as a dynamic force for change and accords it a central role in the development of civilisation. The 'ecological' school sees literacy as embedded in specific social contexts and disputes that it plays any autonomous role in historical change. This thesis will discuss both theoretical approaches and evaluate these contrasting positions in a specific historical context. The focus of this study is on the role that literacy played in Ireland from the medieval to the modem period. Ireland is a useful case study because it contains virtually all the elements that arise in the wider debate: restricted literacy and pragmatic literacy, the relationship of language change to literacy, the presence of disparate literate practices, and the role of literacy in advancing development and spawning uneven development. As well as examining the role of literacy in Ireland from the late Middle Ages to the early modem period, this study compares the development of literate practices in Ireland to those in England, Scotland and Wales and assesses their role in responding to the Reformation and political centralisation. This thesis also compares the origins and the early development of capitalism in Ireland and Scotland, and attempts to assess the role of literacy in explaining the divergent paths taken by these societies. Finally it examines the relationship between the emergence of mass literacy and the rise of national identities. From the study of Ireland and its neighbours, the thesis attempts to draw some general conclusions about the relationship between literacy and historical change.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.490326
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2017 10:40
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2017 10:40
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/15105

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