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Author(s): Correia, Luís Grosso
Title: Social patterns of literacy in the city of Porto at the end of the nineteenth century
Issue Date: 2008
Abstract: The aim of the present work is to develop a reconceptualisation of the social and culturalinfluences on literacy based on the case study of the population of Porto at the end of thenineteenth century. Usually literacy means a positive fact in the vital need for the modernisationof contemporary societies (economic growth, industrialisation, wealth, productivity, politicalstability and urbanidation), which was not the configuration of Portuguese social structure(25.5% literacy rate in 1900) or Porto's social structure (52.5% literacy rate in 1900). Thepossible expansion of industry or the very developed trade and bank sectors in the city of Portowere an "island" of modernity among the strong sociocultural characteristics of rurality andthe predominance of primary production in the economic structure of Portugal. At first sight,it would be easy to design the literacy profile of Portuguese society if we took into accountonly the cold figures of the official statistics. The results presented are based on the categorisationof the signatures of the people who took part in 1198 marriage ceremonies certified in the cityof Porto in the year 1890. In an epoch where there were multiple signature styles and at thesame time attempts to standardise handwriting, the newly-weds' signatures on the marriagerecord became a privileged and reliable indicator of the social profile of writing skills usage aswell as an indicator of literacy levels, connected with the handwriting and orthographiccharacteristics evident in the signatures. The relevance of this option resides in the path to endowour analysis with patterns of coherence, comparability and graduation and in the understandingand critical interpretation of the results. The social analysis of Porto shows literacy rates shapedby the strong influence and regulation of factors such as gender, place of birth, emigration andprofessional occupation inasmuch as it interacts with social structures and the process of socialinequality. Incidentally, it will be among women that we can find empirically theconsubstantiation of common-sense perceptions concerning the obstacles to literacy, namelythe low attendance and the early dropout of primary schooling, the distinct gap between theliteracy levels of the younger and adult generations, the entropic effects that the female ruralexodus provoked in the literacy rates of the city, the strong correlation between the literacy ratesand the socio-occupational hierarchy and the cheapness of women's non-qualified work. Amongthe men, we register specific behaviours, namely the quite homogeneous literacy rates betweenage cohorts, the positive effects of the rural exodus on the distribution of literacy skills in thecity and the resistance to the transformation of craftwork into proletarian jobs which is deeplyconnected with the maintenance of important literacy rates by the workers of traditional crafts.
Subject: Ciências da educação
Educational sciences
Scientific areas: Ciências sociais::Ciências da educação
Social sciences::Educational sciences
Document Type: Artigo em Revista Científica Internacional
Rights: restrictedAccess
Appears in Collections:FPCEUP - Artigo em Revista Científica Internacional

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