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Jovellanos, Gaspar Melchor de (1744–1811)

Article by Angeles Galino Carrill1Jovellanos-Gaspar-Melchor

Jovellanos and his time2

A substantial part of Jovellanos’ writings consist of judgements, criticisms and legal opinions solicited by theSupreme Council of Castile. Jovellanos, a jurist and magistrate by profession, was well versed in both civil andcanon law. His many-sided personality favoured an enlightened monarchy, admired the French Constitution ofthe Year II (1794), and sought constant contact with innovative legal thinking in England, Italy and France.

However, Jovellanos’ reputation as a man of letters is based on his many outstanding contributions to Spanish language and literature. This magistrate wrote some of the finest poetry of his century. His multifaceted personality allowed him to cultivate a variety of writing styles. Some of Jovellanos’ most prominent works are lyric poetry and satire. Yet, it is his literary work, published under the pseudonym ‘Jovino’, with its elegant and natural prose style that sealed his place in the history of Spanish literature. It was Jovellanos’ broad interests coupled with his facility for language that allowed him to transcend genre.

A political reformer, Jovellanos was closely linked with some of the principal movers behind thereforms carried out under Carlos III. He belonged to the encyclopaedist circle of Pablo de Olavide, promoter of the first modern university reform in Spain. He was a member of the Royal Council of Military Orders, a State Councillor, and Minister of Grace and Justice under Carlos IV. During the War of Independence (1808–13) he sat on the Supreme Central Junta and was declared ‘Padre de la Patria’ [Father of the country] by the Cortes of Cádiz.

Jovellanos was a leader. He did not simply support but enthusiastically promoted progress. A keen student of economics, founder and active member of the Madrid Economic Society of Friends of the Country, and corresponding member of many other economic societies, he was an active promoter of trade, mining and improved communication routes. One of his main works, the Informe sobre el expediente de la Ley Agraria [Report on the Agrarian law file], dealt with the political problems of land tenure. In it he supported the agrarian reforms that the nation needed and presented an independent and informed opinion on the economic doctrines of the century.

Drawing on his knowledge of history, geography and art, Jovellanos was a wide-ranging writer, and his interest in the customs and mores of human groups made him a forerunner of various branches of science that were not developed until much later.

Jovellanos the educator

Jovellanos made education one of his main concerns. His broad interests always focused ultimately on the crucial question of training. His works on education span three decades of his life (1781–1809), and include the first systematic treatise on the subject. Any history of education has to recognize Jovellanos’ position astypifying the educational approach of the Enlightenment whose key players were society-oriented. Jovellanos’ reflections on education start with the human being as a member of society. His societal approach gradually broadens to take in personal values and ultimately his pedagogy equally attends to both sides of the individual/society partnership.

His Diario [Journal] for 1796 conveys the intensity of a man in his fifties who, having taken stock of what he has done in his life and of what he still wishes to do, takes the future into his hands and makes his decision. Jovellanos writes—’I am resolved to write a little work on public instruction for which I have prepared some notes and observations’.3

Research on Jovellanos in a variety of fields has opened up different paths of access to his work. As specialized studies, they are absolutely irreplaceable. We now turn to one aspect of his work which, while it does not stand on its own, seems nevertheless to hold a key both to his principal prose works and to some ofhis poetry: The central role of education in his ideas for reform. His concern for the economic recovery of thenation and his axiomatic belief in instruction as the basis for all social and individual progress are the driving force of Jovellanos’s educational theories.

Jovellanos’s ideas and his support for reform can be seen in his criticism of universities, the élitist‘colegias mayores’, the judiciary, the guilds and the Inquisition. He also criticized social factors such asinherited wealth (primogeniture), the poor quality of the education provided for the aristocracy, the lack ofeducational provision for the general population, the pseudo-education of women, poverty made worse bypolitical structures, contempt for manual work and the superstitions and obsessive perversions of religion.

His critique of contemporary education denounces purely speculative—or, as he says, deductive—teaching methods. He abhored the anachronistic statutes governing educational establishments, the semiecclesiasticregimen of universities, the abuse of authority, unfamiliarity with sources (Biblical, humanistic, legal, medical), ignorance and undervaluation of modern sciences, neglect of living languages and the lack ofup-to-date training for the working class and technical guilds (Escolano Benito, 1988).

Given the impossibility of carrying out the vast reforms he considered necessary, Jovellanos opted to improve old teaching establishments wherever he could. But he was more interested in creating new facilities corresponding more closely to his ideal.This much can be deduced from his publications and activities at various stages in his career. When the Economic Societies of Friends of the Country were still active, Jovellanos addressed the Asturian Society on ways to promote the welfare of that region (1781), and on the need to advance study of the natural sciences (1782). In one of his addresses he recommended introducing an element of freedom into the training of craftsmen (1785). He also advocated women’s membership of the Madrid Economic Society as active members enjoying full rights (1786). A significant part of his educational thinking is set out in the Elogio de Carlos III [In praise of Carlos III] (1788). And during his time as Minister of the Military Orders, he drew upthe curriculum for the Colegio de Calatrava in Salamanca (1790). This was his main contribution to university training and a very important educational document (Caso González, 1988).

During the productive years when he was exiled from the capital to Gijon (1790–97) on the pretext of supervising mining operations, he concentrated on giving shape to the Nautical and Mineralogical Institute, which he founded. Long sections of his work on agrarian law are devoted to the education of farmers, landowners and politicians (1794). Although it is said that the Plan de educación de la nobleza [Educational plan for the nobility], was not written by Jovellanos, there is no doubt that it was directly inspired by him. It was, according to recent research, produced during his brief term as Minister of Grace and Justice (1797–98).There was a second period of exile to Majorca from 1801 to 1808. During this time Jovellanos wrote the first systematic treatise on education in the Spanish Enlightenment without referring to or quoting from his previous works. These two periods of exile were among the most productive periods of his life.

Educational upheavals

There is no need for a full and detailed description of the educational upheavals that took place during the final years of the eighteenth century in Spain, but it is necessary to consider some of the more significant features of the educational context in which Jovellanos lived and worked.

At the beginning of Jovellanos’ professional career, a series of reforms were promoted by the ministers of Carlos III. Their clearly subjective conviction that they were involved in the most auspicious turning-point in the history of Spain was reflected in the following package of reforms: The expulsion of the Jesuits from colleges and seminaries, and related legal provisions (1767 and ensuing years); the entrusting of the reform of the University of Seville to Olivade, who made some changes to its curriculum (Aguilar Piñal, 1969), and who also explained how far to extend the reform in the other universities; the series of royal decrees reforming the universities of Salamanca and Alcalá (1769); the creation of university directors, through whom the universities would be made accountable to the Council of Castile (1769); and the reform of the colegios mayores promoted by the manteístas in power, in the face of opposition from the colegiales who had until then had the upper hand in the civil and ecclesiastic administration (1771–77).

The obstacles placed in the way of these measures, which successfully thwarted them, left Jovellanos with a lasting conviction that necessary changes in the studies, methods and organization of teaching would fail if left to the respective corporations and professions. He had no faith in contemporary university education, which he saw as a decadent bastion of the traditional university. Several passages of his works reflect the sadness and frustration accompanying his conclusion that effective renewal would have to come ‘from above’. In the 1760s, when the proponents of the Enlightenment set about reforming education at the level then called ‘First Letters’, reforms were also undertaken at other levels. For instance, awarding a teacher’s diploma became the exclusive right of the Council of Castile (1771). Teacher’s affairs, previously administered by the Brotherhood of San Casiano, were assigned to the Academic College of First Letters (1780) and later to the Royal Academy of Primary Education (1791), that instituted the first Chair of Education (1797). This period also saw the institution of the ‘normal schools’, so called because they were expected to serve as a norm for all the others. These schools were modeled after the Parisian ‘Ecole normale’ opened by decree of the Revolutionary Convention on 20 January 1795. This was the first appearance of the educational term ‘normal’ in the context of teacher training in Spain.

A marked feature of the Spanish Enlightenment was its bid to regenerate a country which, after a period of revival, was threatening to sink back into lethargy because there was little support in society at large.The educated class linked with the administration was not sufficiently influential. Its members formed circles of friends or came together to promote specific projects (Viñao Frago, 1982) and can be legitimately described as an intelligentsia. Except for a few years under Carlos III, there was an unbridgeable chasm between their ideas and political life.

Such was the ideological and political context in which Jovellanos developed his ideas on education.

Jovellanos’ educational theory


It is never idle to ask questions about the nature of man. Every approach to education is based on an underlyingimage of man. Human beings’ attempts to define themselves and the meaning of their lives provide Jovellanos with three bases for his educational anthropology.

Man is at birth an incomplete being requiring various forms of assistance and particularlycommunication with other human beings.5 Educability is the essential distinguishing feature of human beings and reason, the basis for all instructive communication.6 Moral responsibility is peculiar to the human species; the ethical requirement of freedom calls for the constant improvement of the individual receiving education, ‘an education for virtue’.7


Jovellanos broaches relations between the economy and instruction by confessing to his own change ofoutlook. He ponders the skills required for the exercise of jurisprudence, his own initial training, and concludes that the most useful subject for legislators is civil and political economics,8 ‘a science that can be said to be of this century’.

Whatever might be the source of the nations’ wealth, whether it be agriculture, trade and shipping, industry or its population, Jovellanos regarded all as equally important. All these activities are linked by a highly complex network of direct and indirect actions and reactions. This means that all sources of wealth must be encouraged at the same time. Neglect of any one will have a prejudicial effect on the rest.9

We must then discover whether there is a prime factor capable of opening paths to national prosperity. For Jovellanos the answer is education. The relationship between labour and wealth is not a simple one. Muchdepends on how labour is applied to the various fields of production. Nor is there a direct relationship between wealth and population; wealth results from the skill and sophistication with which a given situation is handled, the attitude toward the processes involved, and the quality of the end product.

The first task is to promote information, the flow of ideas, the learning of new technologies and to study new methods that are being devised. ‘The chief source of public prosperity should be sought ininstruction’.10

Curricula must include ‘useful sciences’. The question of useful sciences, decisive for curriculum design, is raised by Jovellanos in other contexts, including that of Agrarian Law.11 The usefulness of knowledge depends on the framework in which it is applied. When Jovellanos advocates the teaching of ‘useful sciences’,he is thinking of those that meet human needs. Need is the key to interest. What was required in this period wasa complete change in the approach to curriculum planning that would introduce the knowledge and skills likely to enhance national prosperity. At the same time, teachers and educators needed to make instruction correspond more closely to interest. These were the two pivotal points in one chapter of the ‘enlightened’ reforms proposed by Jovellanos.

The exact sciences and the natural sciences are for Jovellanos ‘useful sciences.’ The former enhance knowledge of the economy itself and of machines and instruments in general, while the latter provide the key to the study and practice of farming and mining, as well as to the many subordinate branches of the ‘grand art of agriculture’.12

The Informe sobre la Ley Agraria [Report on the Agrarian law] proposes the creation of establishments teaching ‘useful subjects’; in this context, those of use in agriculture. They were to be provided in all cities and towns of consequence, ‘those with a numerous and well-to-do propertied class’.13

The methods of such education raise a by-no-means trivial matter: they involve bringing down the barrier between those who study and those who work; between theory and practice; between research and action. There is no mistaking which way Jovellanos leans, given that he describes the defects of Spanish cultureas a taste for subtlety in reasoning, the belittling of practical skills and the identification of traditional thinking with one’s own, and of anything new with the perilously alien. ‘Is there no way of bringing scholars closer to the artists (artisans), and sciences themselves to their prime and most worthy object?’14

The role of the intellectual—too inclined to generalize abstract knowledge without checking on its application—must consist, first of all, in investigating useful truths and placing them within the reach of the illiterate, and, equally urgently, in discarding the routines and prejudices that so hamper the progress of the ‘necessary arts’. ‘Technical primers’ were to be prepared which would describe, clearly and simply, the best ways of preparing the land.15


In his ‘Report’ Jovellanos recommends that the funds needed to provide free education should come from ‘tithes levied by prelates, income accumulated by chapter-houses, and other ecclesiastical benefits’.16

Institutes teaching useful subjects would be financed from three sources: since they were assumed to be in the public interest they could legitimately be endowed by the councils of the respective localities, teachers being paid out of contributions paid by pupils and the government providing and maintaining buildings, instruments, machinery, libraries and other necessary items.17


Morality was the central question in the ethics of the Enlightenment. For Jovellanos virtue and courage were the keys to social prosperity. Education is important here too as a means of inculcating these qualities. In general, ignorance is the root of all the evils that corrupt society. And moral ignorance is the worst kind of ignorance, since it represents a defect not of understanding but of the heart.18

Jovellanos clearly sees the subtle relationship between instruction and virtue. To begin with, he examines the origin or prime source of morality. This was an exercise conducted by Plato and Aristotle and, among the moderns, by Hume and Adam Smith, since it was viewed as an indispensable part of moral philosophy. Jovellanos considered it essential to moral education.

The time he spends presenting and commenting on the opinions of the various philosophers on the foundations of morality, which he identifies from the outset as the crux of the debate, is not wasted: The concept of nature is a vague one, since it stands for a ‘universal and complex’ idea;19 human reason is neither the norm nor does it precede it, though it may discern it and determine conduct; the quest for pleasure and avoidance of pain would be acceptable if identified with the desire for good and the rejection of real evil. Nor does Jovellanos accept interest as the foundation of morality; on this plane interest is of secondary importance, being more a psycho-pedagogical factor. He agrees with those who equate happiness with the exercise of virtuebut differs with those, like Cicero, one of the authors he read most extensively, who do not manage to ascertainits true origin.20

The fundamental tension between the individual and society, which increased throughout the century, is of the greatest interest to our author, who makes his profound ethical and political convictions the essential basis of any education. He is in less than full agreement with the contemporary tendency to ‘invent’ the individual in the abstract, because ‘whatever the poets or pseudo-philosophers may say, history and experience never present man otherwise than as forming part of some more or less imperfect association’.21 He accepts them in good part, however, making a distinction between the rights of ‘natural man’ and those of ‘man in society’. He accepts natural obligations and rights, affirming at the same time that they are modified by the social nature of man. This is a qualification that he regards as essential. But this modifying principle must at least have as its aim the preservation and enhancement of those rights and obligations which, by nature, precede social rights and obligations. The more the modifications introduced by this principle of association strengthen the rights belonging by nature to man and the less they diminish them, the better they will be. He concludes with an open recognition that any political society must tend constantly towards such perfection.22 This passage expresses a tight cluster of views that set Jovellanos apart as a man of the Enlightenment bent on reform and, of course, an anti-revolutionary.

The great mistake that undermines moral education is recognizing rights with neither law nor norm to support them, or rather of recognizing the law without recognizing its legitimizer. These ‘opinions’ concern the subjects of any education in which they are implicated, and the educator has to take them into account.

Jovellanos for his part is explicit. The prime source of morality lies in the Author of all things. This affirmation is made long before the Tratado teórico-práctico de enseñanza [Theoretical and practical treatise on education]: it is extensively developed in the Introducción al estudio de la economía civil [Introduction to the study of the civic economy]. The moral norm has to have ‘a transcendental origin, to be essentially good and a uniformly active constant force’. The natural duties or obligations that concern man as an individual and the civic obligations of man in society can be extrapolated from this basis.

Moral instruction is necessary, even if moral law is considered to be natural to man and its precepts develop naturally as he develops. It is more necessary for those who desire their morality to be based on reflections and deductions of abstract principles. There is also a ‘morality of the heart’ in some persons who might not, therefore, require instruction. But even in these cases education would serve to cultivate and improve it.

The general population, who lack any other source of moral grounding, will be in yet greater need of instruction in this area.

A theoretical definition of education

The educational philosophy of Jovellanos is presented systematically in one of his later works, the Tratadoteórico-práctico de enseñanza [Theoretical and practical treatise on education]. In his many previous works, he had adopted positions on education that were both precise and daring. He had expressed views on literary,legal, theological, scientific, technical and civic training. An author of such consistency—despite all that is said about the ‘two faces of Jovellanos’—would not, in the work of his solitary and imprisoned maturity, disorient his readers with a sudden change of direction. What he could do would be to present a well-argued philosophyof education, an intellectual overview made possible only as a result of detailed and comprehensive observation.

He anchors his enterprise on two already familiar axioms that constitute his firmest convictions in this field: ‘education is not only the first but also the most general source of the prosperity of peoples’,23 and ‘the prime root of evil is ignorance’.24 He devoted his life to demonstrating the truth of those assertions, placing in their service, by his own admission, ‘prolonged meditation’ and an undeniable zeal for the public good.

The relationship between instruction and education is clearly set down in the Tratado: instruction is the universal medium of education and virtue the chief purpose of education. This is the conclusion of very lengthy prior discussion and, in our view, it forms the basis of the educational theory of Jovellanos.

This ‘prolonged meditation’ was partly devoted to clarifying the relationship between instruction and morality. Jovellanos had already supported the challenge raised some time before by Rousseau: ‘It will be said that education corrupts, and it is true’. The objection is too important not to be lingered over. Jovellanos qualifies his attitude. He makes distinctions regarding the quality of instruction, recognizing the existence of a knowledge which embraces corruption, he explains ‘no greater evil can befall men or States’.25 It is not the first time that he notes the existence of perverse education, although he prefers to call it delirium rather than instruction. He sometimes describes moral evil as error.

When the question is put thus, what is under discussion is nothing less than the significance of education, the terms of the question being to determine whether or not education can be the prime source of beneficial instruction.

The answer is not immediate. It is reached by indirect though convergent paths. In the course of the study of sciences that he includes in the Tratado, he promises ‘to describe the relationship that each (science) has with the major objects of human reason’,26 and to explain how partial knowledge contributes to human advancement through the exercise of reason. The direct answer is unfolded in the chapter on ethics. How can instruction contribute to character formation? Jovellanos is not oblivious to the problems stemming from the intrinsic nature of the relationship between the cognitive capacities of the subject and a person’s behaviour. It is a classic question that occupied him on various occasions, and only in the Tratado did he reach a conclusion.

In the Introducción a la economía política [Introduction to Political Economics] he made the follow ingassertions: man can be materially improved by instruction; instruction improves his ability to reason and to fee land even his will, which ‘with instruction will not be less free but more enlightened’.27

Of one thing he is certain and says so, both in the Economía civil [Civil economics] and in the Tratado: ignorance will never be an antidote to knowledge that does not improve man. He takes the opposite approach: to confront the culture of corruption with well-founded knowledge.28

In the Tratado, Jovellanos consistently makes the exercise of reason the basis for all aspects of the educational function. He lays emphasis on the need to guide the young, ‘to rectify the heart’, and to direct young people in the exercise ‘of their feelings and emotions’. Will ‘has to be prepared’ to comply with the norm, so that it may know and feel that ‘in such compliance lies its contentment’.29 This study is conducive tot he exercise of virtue.

This ‘teaching’, he admits, is more a matter of doing than of reasoning, having more to do with practise than with preaching, because ‘it should not be forgotten that moral truths are the truths of the heart’.30 Between instruction that opens the doors of science and art, and the purpose of education, which is to make citizens useful and good, there has to be instruction concerned with the shaping of virtue. It is this distinctive ‘savoir-faire’ which has much in common with art and, in a way, comes under the heading of wisdom that Jovellanos identifies as the domain of education.

For our author, education is the pivot that has to turn instruction toward virtue. At the time of the Enlightenment, it was of the essence that education should guide the universal spreading of knowledge toward the twin challenges of the age: Virtue and the wealth of nations.

Happiness as the spur to and goal of education

One key factor in the philosophy of Jovellanos has yet to be mentioned, and that is happiness. Although introduced for the first time at the end of the Tratado, its influence is present throughout the entire process. It forms part of a sequence of ideas that subtends the whole work: Instruction-education-virtue-happiness. The logical order of exposition in no way implies a chronological succession, since the factors mentioned are allinter linked, both with respect to the pupil and as regards the aims of the agents of his or her education.

The educational approach is to persuade the young that virtue is the road to happiness.31 Always on the understanding that rational desires are the fountainhead of virtue. The anthropological approach is based on the three following affirmations:

— men and women aspire to happiness under the impulse of an inherent inclination in human beings;

— happiness lies in a feeling lodged in the inner most reaches of consciousness. It is independent of fortune. External goods help to increase it only when employed virtuously;

— man’s natural aspiration for good leads him to the supreme good that is God.

Jovellanos thus comes to what he regards as the centre of any moral doctrine, which in turn sets the bearings for education. The educational approach must assist the reason and the heart of the young to enable them to discover that ‘the supreme good coincides with the ultimate purpose of man, and the object of virtue, with that of happiness’.32

Features of education as viewed by Jovellanos


General education, as conceived by Jovellanos, must be public, universal, civic, humanistic and aesthetic. He insists that public education is the prime source of national prosperity. This leads to the statement that if education is for all citizens its subject-matter is automatically determined: it must equip the subjects of the State, whatever their class and occupation, to attain personal happiness and contribute in the greatest possible measure to the nation’s welfare and prosperity.33 Its purpose will be to improve the physical, intellectual and moral faculties. As to the means of carrying it out, they are the same for both private and public education. The former is not the object of direct government action, but in the Bases its improvement is seen as dependent on publiceducation.

Education and the corresponding instruction are public in as much as they are established and regulated by the civil authorities.34 The underlying concept of the Bases para un Plan General de Instrucción Pública (Foundations for a general system of public instruction] represents an important step in the secularization of education. A milestone on the way from the education policyof the enlightened despot to a liberal policy, which was actually to be promulgated by the constituent assembly of Cádiz.


The universalization of education becomes a recurrent theme with Jovellanos. The universal provision of primary education, which was known in his day as ‘first letters’, was the chief obligation of the State. It was the due of all citizens. There must be no individual, however poorand helpless, not able to have access to such instruction free of charge. Nor should there be any village, however remote, without a school.35

School education, which the author wishes to be an obligation for government and citizens alike, comprises ‘the first letters and the first truths’. These are an initiation into the ‘methodical sciences’, a term applied by Jovellanos to knowledge that provides an introduction to methods of investigating the truth and receiving instruction. Although he does not develop this point, he felt that the methods of teaching reading and writing needed reviewing. ‘First letters’ must include, in addition to learning to read and write, a grounding in the basics of natural, civic and moral doctrine, arithmetic and drawing.36 This is the education due for all citizens.


Jovellanos was the first to use the term ‘civic education’ in Spanish. This discipline is always necessary for all members of society concerning their rights and obligations vis-à-vis that society, but Jovellanos lays great emphasis on it in view of the crisis of the old order and his clear awareness of the contemporary political crisis.

This discipline, which offers an introduction to the various obligations of the citizen, will focus primarily on the origin of all civic virtues, which Jovellanos calls amor público,37 or concern for the common good. On it depends civil unity; it governs the rights and duties of the citizen and obtains from individual interest the sacrifices demanded by the common interest. It makes the welfare and prosperity of all a factor in the happiness of each. Civic education has a distinct content that must form part of primary education or popular education. Jovellanos picks out one aspect in particular: the duty of every citizen to secure instruction; no instruction, ‘however lofty and sublime’, can make up for a lack of knowledge of the civic sciences.38


When the founder of the Institute of Navigation and Mineralogy presented his objectives, they fell within the compass of a somewhat narrow utilitarianism. He did not suffer from a lack of inspiration, the reading of Locke and Condillac having been almost daily fare for him. The switchtoward the humanities was dictated—on the basis of his own firm humanistic upbringing—by the same educational reality. Comparison of the Discurso inaugural [Opening speech] with another delivered three years later, throws crucial light on the process of his educational thinking.39

In the first Discurso, the cultivation of mathematics and natural science is a clearly stated goal,highlighted particularly toward the end of the speech. Prosperity and wealth would result from the utilitarian slant of the new education he proposes. The second Discurso, while maintaining the primacy of the studies for which the institute was founded, developed the idea of the need to introduce literary subjects into the curriculum of future technicians. He had no hesitation in contrasting the humanist with the mere scientist. The latter he claimed to be ‘abstract in principles,inflexible in his maxims, importunately obscure in his conversation’. On the other hand, the man of letters is seen as ‘affectionate, tender, sympathetic in his feelings […] Who better will understand, oblige and reconcile his fellow men?’40

Jovellanos painted an excessively pessimistic picture of the study of science and the humanqualities it brings forth. He was two centuries ahead of his time in anticipating the human impact of narrow technological specialization and the supremacy of economism in educational processes. However, anyone taking the entire work of our author into account will find in it an educational humanism rising above these and other antinomies, because for him education must in the last analysis serve the human being.


Imagination occupies a special, one might say decisive, place in education for Jovellanos. To be able to understand the language of the fine arts and letters, which is the ideal of a harmonious personality, it is essential to cultivate the imagination. Good taste can be inculcated through education, and this is an explicit opinion of Jovellanos. The process that makes it possible to commune with and derive pleasure from artistic creations is refreshed in contact with those who, owing to their human qualities and gifts of expression, have rightly been called ‘masters ofhumanity’. Education should be the place where contact with artistic achievements of the highest quality opens up ‘a new universe full of marvels and enchantment’.41

In the history of Spanish education the educational worth of humanistic training has perhaps never been argued as urgently as by Jovellanos.


Efforts to provide artisans with more effective education and more up-to-date technical training insome occupations were a feature of the Enlightenment and the period immediately preceding it (Escolano Benito, 1988). The policy of Campomanes represents an important chapter in this movement combining the interests of labour and education. Although he was sometimes at odds with the prevailing ideology, Jovellanos contributed actively through the Economic Societies of Friends of the Country and with various practical activities and publications.

The Royal Asturian Institute of Navigation and Mineralogy founded by Jovellanos in Gijón (1794)42 was an exemplary achievement. The institute, openly realist in inspiration, rose above narrowly utilitarian objectives to give attention to general aspects of the education of young pupils, who came to it upon completion of their primary education.43

The curriculum comprised four core subjects: the exact sciences; natural sciences (physics and chemistry); drawing (industrial and technical); and modern languages. The library was well-stocked from the outset, with a large contingent of foreign works, mainly on mathematics, physics and chemistry.

The institute may be regarded as the forerunner of the technical colleges that later developed outside the universities. Owing to its orientation towards industrial applications and to inductive methods of learning, it came to be regarded as a sort of anti-university in the contemporary educational scene. The serious difficulties that beset its founder and the vicissitudes of the War of Independence meant that the institute had a short life.


Even education for girls was given fresh impetus by the Reglamento para el establecimiento de escuelas gratuitas [Regulations for the establishment of non-fee-paying schools].

Women, with their social function and decisive presence in cultural life, feature in a number of other passages of the works with which we are concerned. The last passage is from the Bases [Foundations]. Taking refuge in Seville while the nation was at war, Jovellanos recognized once again the importance of the education of ‘this precious half of the nation’. He points out the influence of women both on the domestic education of the young and on their literary, moral and civic education. Women have the potential to contribute to peace among peoples and to more humane social relations.

The Central Junta was to give much thought to ways of mustering the necessary resources in order to establish non-fee paying, general schools for women in the population at large throughout the kingdom.44 Although Jovellanos was not an innovator with regard to the academic content ofwomen’s education, he did innovate with regard to the universalization of popular education, ‘without distinction as to sex’.45

The cultivated woman has in Jovellanos a resolute protector. In the matter of whether or not women should be admitted to the Madrid Economic Society, he clearly defines his stand: they should be admitted subject to the same formalities and with the same rights as other individuals; they should not form a separate class, and the agreement should be adopted by means of a formal statement.46

Other aspects of educational thinking in Jovellanos are to be found in Caso González, J.(1988) and in Galino Carrillo, A. (1953).

A critical consciousness

Jovellanos’ views were criticized during his time and are still controversial today. He formulated the basis for a secular Christian education in accordance with and relevant to the historical circumstances in which he lived. At the same time, and without contradiction, he tried to establish education on a rational basis. These undertakings were extremely significant. Cosmopolitan and international by choice, culture and character, he is the best exponent of conflicting attitudes and ideas in Spain during this turning-point in history. He gives a lucid account of the personal and ideological drama of one attracted by the ideas of the Enlightenment while aware of new liberal influences, although this awareness was partial rather than total. The same was true of the Cortes of Cádiz, which disregarded his Bases para un Plan General de Instrucción Pública. In other respects—as we have seen—Jovellanos set the pattern for the development of education in Spainover the next two centuries.


1. Angeles Galino Carrillo (Spain) Ph.D. Professor of educational history at the Universidad Complutense, Madrid. Former director-general of secondary and vocational education, former director-gereral of educational classification and former president of the Centro National de investigaciones en Educación (CENIDE). Consultant on various UNESCO missions to Brazil. Her present centres of interest concern cross-cultural and women’s education. Her most recent publications include: Presupuestos culturales para una pedagogía de los valores [ Cultural budgets for values education], Historia de la educación: edades antigua y media [History of education: ancient and medieval periods], and Personalización educativa: génisis y estado actual [Personalized education: origins and present situation].

2 Original title by the author: ‘Jovellanos, an educator of the Spanish Enlightenment’.

3. 31 December 1796. See: G. M. de Jovellanos, Diarios, 1790–1801 [Journals], ed. by Julio Somoza, Oviedo, Instituto de Estudios Asturianos, 1953–55.

4. The term manteístas comes from manteo, the cloak worn by poor students who supported the reforms, as opposed to the colegiales who enjoyed the benefit of scholarships and other privileges.

5. G. M. de Jovellanos, Memoria sobre educación pública o tratado teórico práctico de enseñanza [Memorandum on public education or theoretical and practical treatise on teaching], in: Obras publicadas e inéditas [Publishedand unpublished works], vol. 46, p. 232, ed. by Cándido Nocedal, Madrid, Biblioteca d’Autores Españoles,1858.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 252 ff.

8. G. M. de Jovellanos, Elogio de Carlos III, in: Obras publicadas e inéditas, vol. 87, p. 7 ff., ed. by Miguel Artola, Madrid, Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, 1956.11

9. Ibid., p. 9.

10. Ibid., p. 10.

11. G. M. de Jovellanos, Informe sobre la Ley Agraria [Report on the Agrarian Law], in: Obras publicadas e inéditas, vol. 50, p. 122, ed. by Cándido Nocedal, Madrid, Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, 1858.

12. Ibid., p. 123.

13. Ibid., p. 124.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., p. 125–26.

16. Ibid., p. 125.

17. Ibid., p. 124.

18. Memoria […], op. cit., p. 251.

19. Ibid., p. 252.

20. Ibid., p. 253.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid., p. 255.

23. Elogio de Carlos III, op. cit., p. 10.

24. Ibid., p. 13.

25. Memoria[…], op. cit., p. 232.

26. Ibid., p. 240.

27. G. M. de Jovellanos, Discurso sobre el Estudio de la Economía Civil [Speech concerning the study of the civil economy], in: Obras publicadas e ineditas, vol. 87, p. 17, ed. by Miguel Artola, Madrid, Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, 1956.

28. Memoria […], op. cit., p. 232.

29. Ibid., p. 251.

30. Ibid., p. 235.

31. Ibid., p. 261.

32. Ibid.

33. Ibid., p. 237.

34. G. M. de Jovellanos, Bases para un Plan General de Instrucción Pública [The foundations of a general system of public instruction], in: Obras publicadas e inéditas, vol 46, op. cit., p. 268.

35. Informe sobre la Ley Agraria, op. cit., p. 125.

36. Memoria […], op. cit., p. 241–43.

37. Ibid., p. 256.

38. Ibid., p. 257.

39. G. M. de Jovellanos, Discurso Inaugural del Real Instituto de Náutica y Mineralogía [Opening speech at the royal nautical and mineralological institute], in: Obras publicadas e inéditas, vol. 46, op. cit., p. 318–24.

40. G. M. de Jovellanos, Discurso sobre la necesidad de unir el estudio de la literatura al de ciencias naturales [Speech on the necessity of uniting the study of literature and the natural sciences], in: Obras publicadas e inéditas, vol. 46, op. cit., p. 330–34.

41. Ibid., p. 333.

42. Discurso Inaugural […], op. cit., p. 318–24.

43. G. M. de Jovellanos, Ordenanza para la Escuela de matemáticas, física, química, mineralogía y náuticade Gijón [Decree on the school of mathematics, physics, chemistry, mineralogy and marine at Gijón], in: Obras publicadas e inéditas, vol. 50, op. cit., p. 399–420.

44. Bases para un Plan General de Instrucción Pública, op. cit., p. 274.

45. Memoria […], op. cit., p. 242.

46. G. M. de Jovellanos, Memoria sobre si se deben admitir las señoras en la Sociedad Económica Matritense Obras publicadas e inéditas, vol. 50, op. cit., p. 56.


Aguilar Piñal, F. 1969. La Universidad de Sevilla en el Siglo XVIII. Estudio sobre la primera reforma universitaria moderna [The University of Seville in the eighteenth century: study of the first modern university reform]. Seville, Anales de la Universidad Hispalense.

Caso González, J. M. 1988. Jovellanos y la reforma de la enseñanza [Jovellanos and the reform of education]. In: De Ilustración y de Ilustrados [On enlightenment and enlighteners], p. 225–306. Oviedo, Instituto Feijóo de Estudios del Siglo XVIII.12

Escolano Benito, A. 1988. Educación y economía en la España Ilustrada [Education and economy of the Spanish enlightenment]. Madrid, Ministry of Education and Science.

Galino Carrillo, A. 1953. Tres hombres y un problema. Feijóo, Sarmiento y Jovellanos ante la educación moderna [Three Men and a problem: Feijóo, Sarmiento and Jovellanos before modern education]. Madrid, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.

Gil, L. 1976. Campomanes : un helenista en el poder [Campomanes: a Greek in power]. Madrid, Fundación Universitaria Española.

Merida-Nicolich, E. 1990. El concepto de Instrucción Pública. Sus notas características en Campomanes, Jovellanos, Cabarrús y Quintana [The Concept of public instruction: its main features in campomanes, Jovellanos, Cabarrúsand Quintana]. In: La Revolución Francesa y su influencia el la educación en España [The French Revolutionand its influence on education in Spain], p. 117–140. Madrid, Universidad Nacional de Educación a distancia, Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

Polt, H. R. J. 1964. Jovellanos and His English Sources. Philadelphia, Pa., American Philosophical Society.

Rick, L. L. 1977. Bibliografía crítica de Jovellanos (1901–1976) [Critical Bibliography of Jovellanos]. Oviedo,Cátedra de Feijóo.

Ruiz Berrio, J. 1988. La crisis del profesor español en la Ilustración [The crisis of the Spanish teacher during the enlightenment]. In: Ilustración y Educación [Enlightenment and education]. Madrid, Ministry of Education and Science.

Valle Lopez, A. del. 1990. La huella de dos pedagogos de la Revolución Francesa – Talleyrand-Perigord y Condorcet – en los Proyectos Educativos de Jovellanos y Quintana [The influence of two educators of the French Revolution—Talleyrand-Perigord and Condorcet—on the Educational Projects of Jovellanos and Quintana]. In: La Revolución Francesa y su influencia el la Educación en España, p. 141–71, op. cit.

Viñao Frago, A. 1982. Política y educación en los orígenes de la España Contemporánea [Politics and education in the origins of modern Spain]. Madrid, Siglo XXI.

Works by Jovellanos

The works of Jovellanos mentioned here can be found in five volumes of his Obras publicadas e inéditas.

vols. 46 & 50. Ed. by Cándido Nocedal. Madrid, Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, 1858.

vols. 85, 86 & 87. Ed. by Miguel Artola. Madrid, Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, 1956.

A Arnesto. Sátira contra la mala educación de la nobleza [To Arnesto: satire against the poor education of the nobility]. 1787. (vol. 46)

Bases para un Plan General de Instrucción Pública [Foundations for a general system of public instruction]. 1809.(vol. 46)

Diarios (1790–1801) [Journal]. In: Diarios. Ed. by Julio Somoza. Preface by Angel del Rio. Oviedo, Instituto de Estudios Asturianos, 1953–55.

Discurso Inaugural del Real Instituto de Náutica y Mineralogía [Inaugural speech for the royal nautical and mineralogical institute]. 1794. (vol. 46)

Discurso sobre el Estudio de la Economía Civil [Speech concerning the study of the civil economy]. 1776. (vol. 87)

Discurso sobre la necesidad de cultivar en el principado el estudio de las ciencias naturales [Speech concerning theneed to cultivate study of the natural sciences]. 1782. (vol. 46)

Discurso sobre la necesidad de unir el estudio de la literatura al de ciencias naturales [Speech on the need to unite the study of literature with the natural sciences]. 1797. (vol. 46)

Elogio de Carlos III [In praise of Charles III]. 1788. (vol. 87)

Informe sobre el libre ejercicio de las artes [Report on the free exercise of the arts]. 1785. (vol. 50)

Informe sobre la Ley Agraria [Report on the Agrarian Law]. 1794. (vol. 50)

Memoria sobre educación pública o tratado teórico práctico de enseñanza [Memorandum on public education ortheoretical and practical treatise on teaching. c. 1802. (vol. 46)

Memoria sobre si se deben admitir las señoras en la Sociedad Económica Matritense [Memorandum on whetherwomen should be admitted to the Madrid Economic Society]. 1786. (vol. 50)

Ordenanza para la Escuela de matemáticas, física, química, mineralogía y náutica de Gijón (Real Instituto Asturiano) [Decree on the school of mathematics, physics, chemistry, mineralogy and marine at Gijón (Royal Asturian Institute)]. 1793. (vol. 50)

Plan de Educación de la Nobleza [Educational Plan for the Nobility]. c. 1798. (vol. 87)

Reflexiones sobre Instrucción Pública [Thoughts on public instruction] (1797). In: De Ilustración e Ilustrados [On enlightenment and enlighteners]. Ed. by José Caso González. Oviedo, Instituto Feijóo de Estudios del Siglo XVIII, 1988. Appendix, p. 307–33.13

Reglamento literario e institucional del Colegio Imperial de Calatrava [Literary and institutional regulation of the imperial college of Calatrava] (1790). In: Reglamento para el Colegio de Calatrava [Regulation of the college of Calatrava]. Introduction and notes by José Caso González. Gijón, Stella, 1964.

Copyright notice

This text was originally published in Prospects:the quarterly review of comparative education (Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXIII, no. 3/4, 1993, p. 741–56.

Reproduced with permission. For a PDF version of the article, use:

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