Schools and seats of scientific learning
"He who opens a school door, closes a prison." Victor Hugo
In both Europe and the Arab and Ottoman world, the poor historically had no access to education, and the few schools that taught basic reading and writing had limited facilities and materials. In the 19th century, in order to provide education to as many as possible, under the best conditions, and to highlight this objective symbolically through visible architecture, Europeans built many imposing schools, universities and libraries. These buildings were fitted out with the equipment and learning materials required by pupils and teachers. Refectories and dormitories enabled students from far away to attend.

By the second half of the 19th century, European-style educational theories were increasingly implemented across the Arab and Ottoman world, many initiated by reforming rulers or European church missions. In regions under French or British control the colonial authorities took over from the existing authorities the construction and overhaul of education infrastructure.
More about

Schools and seats of scientific learning
Scenes from life
Pedagogy and knowledge
Ottoman schools
L’université Zitouna

XIXe siècle

Archives nationales, Tunis, Tunisia


Traditional Islamic education emphasised memorisation of the Holy Qur’an, the study of hadith, grammar, Islamic jurisprudence and other related subjects such as philosophy and astronomy. In the 19th century, European-inspired schools were founded in the Arab and Ottoman world, coexisting with traditional institutions.

See Database entry for this item

In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition