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The best intentions

A reader wrote enquiring about the details of private educational ventures in Britain around 1895. We are not specialists (on this or many subjects), but we recommended British author James Bartholomew's The Welfare State We're In. Not the title you might expect for education history, but Bartholomew has 75 pages on the subject, plus terrific footnotes which refer readers to treasures such as The Lost Elementary Schools of Victorian England by Phil Gardner and Frank Smith's History of English Elementary Education 1760-1902.

People talk frequently of helping the poor. Bartholomew's book shows the imaginative good that can be done by private individuals working together and how the best intentions, when they ignore human nature, can lead to disaster.