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Mathur, R. B. (1947) The early history of female education in India. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The education of women had always been a characteristic feature of Indian life but during the chaos that followed the collapse of the Moghul Empire in the 18th century, it declined sharply from the difficulty of providing it in such turbulent times. The rise of missionary activity in the 19th century brought its revival as a useful auxiliary to proslytism. The full story of this educational activity is to be found in the Records (Letters of individual missionaries, Memoranda, Minute Books, Annual Reports, Account Bo Acs, Pamphlets, periodicals and newspapers) of the various missionary societies which so far as appears have never been examined from this point of view. An examination of these records reveals the silent patient labours of many obscure individuals which alone made the work of their more illustrious succes2ors possible. The Government, overscrupulous in the observance of its pledge of religious neutrality and non-interference with Indian customs, did little for female education during this period, but its individual officers from the Governor-General downwards fostered it and gave it the prestige of their patronage. In the second half of the 19th century missionary example reinforced by the rise of pure philanthropy unassociated with proselytising zeal encouraged the adoption of a bolder policy. The rise of the Feminist Movement bringing with it a changing conception of Woman's sphere also gave an impetus to female education in India. Developing under these influences, female education in India was largely an exotic growth. Social and economic factors cut across purely educational ones, success depended not so much upon the perfection of the plan as upon the personality of those responsible for its execution. Hence the growth of the movement was not uniform and few generalisations can be made about the whole of India. Though there is some correlation between men's and women's education, other factors also considerably influenced the latter, so much so that while men's education made the greatest progress in Bengal, Bombay and Madras were ahead in the matter of female education. Again though literacy was more general in Bombay and Madras, the higher education of women made greater progress in Bengal. Also the Moslems though generally regarded as more backward educationally were more literate and more ready to take advantage of the schools than the Hindus as far as female education was concerned except in Bengal and Sind. Even though private and governmental efforts combined merely touched the fringe of the problem, they succeeded in demonstrating the crying need for female education. They led to the reorientation of Indian thought on the subject and Indians saw the need for harmonising education with environment and vice versa. This led to social reforms. By 1882 the methods of future development had all been devised and tested. This thesis is therefore a study of the education of Indian women during its formative period.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:22

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