The stories we read as children are the ones that stay with us the longest, and from the nineteenth century until the 1950s stories about schools held a particular fascination. Many will remember the goings-on at such earnest establishments as Tom Brown’s Rugby, St Dominic’s, Greyfriars, the Chalet School, Malory Towers and Linbury Court. In the second part of the twentieth century, with more liberal social attitudes and the advent of secondary education for all, these moral tales lost their appeal and the school story very nearly died out. More recently, however, a new generation of compromised schoolboy and schoolgirl heroes – Pennington, Tyke Tiler, Harry Potter and Millie Roads – have given it a new and challenging relevance.
Focusing mainly on novels written for young people, From Morality to Mayhem charts the fall and rise of the school story, from the grim accounts of Victorian times to the magic and mayhem of our own age. In doing so it considers how fictional schools not only reflect but sometimes influence real life. This captivating study will appeal to those interested in children’s literature and education, both students and the general reader, taking us on a not altogether comfortable trip down memory lane.