Monday, 3 March 2014

Education Anglaise

This is the French expression for sado-masochism. It is based on the fact that corporal punishment was inflicted in English schools for a century after it had been abolished in nearly the whole of the rest of Europe. In France it ended in 1885. In the UK, by contrast, it lasted until 1986 in State schools and 1998 in private schools. Britain was the last country in the whole of Europe to end it. The 1986 abolition in State schools was passed in the House of Commons by only one vote. Some Tory Members of Parliament complained that they had been prevented from voting against abolition by traffic delays caused by preparations for the royal wedding (of Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson). Conservative backbenchers made an attempt to revive it in 1997.

Judicial corporal punishment was abolished in France (and then Italy) by the Code Napoleon in 1801. Birching lasted in the UK for another century and a half until 1948 for crimes of violence, and until 1967 for prison riot. Flogging was a punishment in the British Army until 1868 and the Royal Navy until 1881. Napoleon had abolished it in his army at the beginning of the century. While he was a prisoner on HMS Bellerophon in 1815, after his defeat at Waterloo, he complained about flogging to the British officers he spoke to (in French the diplomatic language). He told them that soldiers should not be treated like that and, instead, should be encouraged.

Even after birching was abolished in 1948, female members of the Conservative Party mounted a fifteen year long campaign to “Bring Back the Birch” - a familiar cry at Conservative Party Annual Conferences. Thankfully this Anglo-Saxon sadism is now history in Europe.

The violent tradition still, however, lingers in the former British colonies. The cane was know in Britain as “the Rod of Empire” and used in all colonial schools - unlike Dutch, French and Italian territories. After independence former British territories have gradually been abolishing it (eg Bangladesh, India, Kenya, South Africa). Others have retained it (eg Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore and some states in the US). British Imperialists were proud of flagellation, stating it incalculated respect for authority, which was lacking amongst undisciplined Continentals.

The root of this attitude was the fact that the English ruling class were educated at boys’ boarding schools where flogging was inflicted. They then became headmasters in schools in the United Kingdom and the colonies where they practised it as normal behaviour. The experience of being chastised at school during puberty spawned sexual deviancy. Englishmen paid prostitutes to chastise them on the bare buttocks including in Paris, resulting in the term Education Anglaise. [See for example The Autobiography Of An Englishman by Y (Carl Yaeger), first published by Elek of London, (1975)].

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