Fusion: Deakin Exhibits Online

19th century readers - The Royal Readers

The British series of Royal Readers replaced the Irish readers in Victoria in 1877.  These readers contained informational matter, excerpts from English literature and tales from history.  As the name implies, the history they related pertained particularly to the British Empire, battles fought and deeds of valour.  Religious content was altered or removed in some Royal Readers by order of the Education Department, under the provisions of the 1872 Act.  For instance, the word 'Christian' was generally replaced by the term 'religious' to avoid potential offence to Jews.

The Royal Readers were unabashed in their celebration of war and the expansion of the British Empire.  Literature and poetry was selected for inclusion on the basis of its instructional content and potential for conveying moral lessons.  Informational facts about geography, food and animals were included and later editions contained some articles and information on Australian history, flora and fauna.

In another example of late 19th century school readers, the Royal School Series Royal Readers illustrates a similar shift in Australian content, although much later than the Irish publications.  Published by Thomas Nelson and Sons, Edinburgh, these readers covered the period 1879 to 1896, and comprised readers for levels two, three and four.  The emphasis of the Royal Readers was to encourage a love of reading through subject content designed to interest young people of the time.

Two iterations of the third and fourth level reader published 13 years apart indicate the arrival of Australian content.  The Royal Readers No. IV from 1883 is exclusively European in content, while the 1896 version featured a new section on Australian explorers.