Compulsory schooling is widely held to be a creation of modern industrial society. Yet already in the eighteenth century, Prussian and Austrian rulers attempted to introduce universal education in societies that were overwhelmingly rural and 'premodern'. Focusing on the reigns of Frederick the Great of Prussia (1740-86) and Maria Theresa of Austria (1740-80), this book examines the origins, aims, and achievements of the compulsory school movements in those states. It draws on a broad range of sources in showing how school reform was part of a broader campaign to strengthen relationships of authority and dependence. Local resistance as well as the contradictory aims of absolutist rule severely limited the success of school reform. But in their effort to promote literate culture on an unprecedented scale, reformers established pedagogical institutions and practices that would decisively shape public education t only in Central Europe, but throughout the West.