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L'enseignement de l'écriture en Belgique 1830-1980

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In 1830 and for generations afterwards the script commonly used for administrative and commercial purposes in Belgium was 'L'anglaise'. Its legibility and speed of writing, together with the prestige of the British Empire, led to its adoption in America and throughout the industrialized world. The best teaching method was that of Carstairs (b. 1783). This was further propagated by acknowledged pupils of his, but it was also plagiarized. It was introduced into the Belgian provinces by a French plagiarist who presented it as an American method. After the Revolution of 1830 a Belgian plagiarist presented it as the Belgian national script. A royal decree of 7 June 1849 instituted a competition with a medal and 500 Belgian francs as the prize for the best writing method, i.e. one suitable for bringing uniformity to the army's bookkeeping. The winner was Jean Dierckx, an official at the Ministry of War, and his method became the official Belgian national script, being taught as such at regimental colleges, in prisons and in state schools until the eve of the First World War. The post-war period, in Belgium as elsewhere, was characterized by the intervention of medical men in the teaching of handwriting. The typewriter and duplicating machine displaced handwriting in the civil service and commerce, just as printing had ousted it from publishing. This does not mean, however, that data communications will eliminate handwriting entirely and rob it of all value and use in public and private life.


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