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Head Masters, Head Masters, 0817314393, 0-8173-1439-3, 978-0-8173-1439-2, 9780817314392, , , Head Masters, 0817357637, 0-8173-5763-7, 978-0-8173-5763-4, 9780817357634, , , Head Masters, 0817387323, 0-8173-8732-3, 978-0-8173-8732-7, 9780817387327,

Head Masters
Phrenology, Secular Education, and Nineteenth-Century Social Thought
by Stephen Tomlinson

Quality Paper
2013. 456 pp.
15 illus
Price:  $39.95 s
E Book
2013. 456 pp.
15 illus
Price:  $39.95 d

Contributes to a better understanding of Horace Mann and the educational reform movement he advanced

Head Masters challenges the assumption that phrenology—the study of the conformation of the skull as it relates to mental faculties and character—played only a minor and somewhat anecdotal role in the development of education. Stephen Tomlinson asserts instead that phrenology was a scientifically respectable theory of human nature, perhaps the first solid physiological psychology. He shows that the first phrenologists were among the most prominent scientists and intellectuals of their day, and that the concept was eagerly embraced by leading members of the New England medical community.

Following its progression from European theorists Franz-Joseph Gall, Johan Gasper Spurzheim, and George Combe to Americans Horace Mann and Samuel Gridley Howe, Tomlinson traces the origins of phrenological theory and examines how its basic principles of human classification, inheritance, and development provided a foundation for the progressive practices advocated by middle-class reformers such as Combe and Mann. He also elucidates the ways in which class, race, and gender stereotypes permeated 19th century thought and how popular views of nature, mind, and society supported a secular curriculum favoring the use of disciplinary practices based on physiology.

This study ultimately offers a reconsideration of the ideas and theories that motivated education reformers such as Mann and Howe, and a reassessment of Combe, who, though hardly known by contemporary scholars, emerges as one of the most important and influential educators of the 19th century.

Stephen Tomlinson is Associate Professor in the Social Foundations of Education at The University of Alabama.

“Stephen Tomlinson’s fascinating and very well-written study focuses on the evolution of phrenological ideas among leading thinkers and reformers in Europe and the United States and explores the impact of these ideas on a number of specific reforms, including public schooling and the care of the disabled. The author’s overarching argument is that while phrenology promised social progress—and helped propel a number of influential reforms—the doctrine also led in certain unhappy directions, such as racist theory and eugenics.”
—Steven Mintz, author of Moralists and Modernizers: America’s Pre–Civil War Reformers
“This aptly titled book tackles an important subject: the influence of phrenology on educational and other social ideas in the nineteenth century. . . . Tomlinson’s thesis is that phrenology had a far greater impact of the development on the thinking and policies of nineteenth-century reformers than historians have recognized.”
Journal of Southern History