Papers of Louis Christian Schiller (1895-1976)

Scope and Content

The collection includes Schiller's notebooks, his working notes, scripts of his lectures, articles and essays, correspondence concerning engagements and with colleagues and students, material relating to his involvement with courses for teachers, personalia, printed material and photographs. Schiller's notebooks mainly contain working notes and the text for his lectures which provide evidence of his educational ideas, for instance, on the teaching of number, the importance of freedom and creativity through art, craft and movement activities, on reading, writing and conversation. Schiller had several articles published and worked on a book about number (which was never completed), but it was through his lectures and his involvement in courses for teachers that Schiller reached his audience and made an impact.

Also included are the notes and papers of Schiller's wife, Mrs Lyndall Schiller, including diaries of their daughters' childhood development. These records of Lyndall were deposited along with those of her husband and as much of them relate to matters that were of interest to both of them they have been retained within the collection of her husband's papers.

In addition the collection contains papers of two of Schiller's students who attended the 'Course on the Education of Children in the Junior School' organised by Christian Schiller at the University of London Institute of Education, 1959s. These include some wooden mathematical teaching apparatus.

Administrative / Biographical History

Louis Christian Schiller (1895-1976), a former HMI and important promoter of progressive ideals and child-centred teaching in primary education, was born on 20th September 1895 in New Barnet, London. He attended Tyttenhanger Lodge Preparatory School, near St.Albans as a boarder (1907-1909) and then moved to Gresham School, Holt, Norfolk (1909-1914) where he became head boy, a sprinting champion of the school and won a mathematics scholarship to attend Sidney Sussex College Cambridge. Before Schiller went up to Cambridge the First World War broke out and he volunteered and was commissioned in the Lincolnshire Regiment. He fought at Mons and had a long spell at the front. He was wounded in action in 1917 and was awarded the Military Cross. After the war he went to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and studied for his Maths degree (1919-1920).

Schiller went on to teach Maths at Rendcomb School in Gloucestershire (1920-1923) a progressive secondary school run by one of his former teachers, Mr. J. H. Simpson. During this time he also carried out original work in the teaching of Geometry and was invited to join the Committee of the Mathematical Association dealing with the teaching of Geometry in Preparatory Schools and contributed to their report. He took on voluntary, part time teaching and gained experience of handicraft work and of teaching in elementary and central schools.

Schiller attended the London Day Training College (1923-1924) and studied for his Teachers Diploma under Dr. T. Percy Nunn who became a very influential figure in Schiller's life. He passed with distinction. It was at this time that Schiller met his future wife who was also studying for her Teachers' Diploma. Schiller was appointed as an Assistant Inspector by the Board of Education in 1924 and spent some time in the office of the Board in Whitehall gaining administrative experience. In August 1925 he moved to Liverpool where he eventually became District Inspector.

On 19 August 1925 Christian Schiller married Lyndall Handover and whilst in Liverpool their three daughters, Gerda, Meryl and Lyris were born. In 1937 Schiller was transferred to Worcestershire where the family remained until 1946 and it was during this period that the Schillers' son Russell was born. HMI organised national refresher courses for teachers and Schiller was involved in running residential courses for teachers at this time.

In 1946 Schiller was appointed as the first Staff Inspector for Primary Education, following the reorganisation brought about by the 1944 Education Act. This brought him back to London and the family moved to Hadley Wood, near Barnet. Schiller spent time pursuing his interest in the primary teaching of maths and his enthusiasm for art and movement in education grew. He continued to run courses for teachers, often with the collaboration of Robin Tanner, who became a good friend, where he promoted progressive ideals and practice.

Whilst at the Ministry of Education Schiller was called upon to recommend someone to run a new course for Primary Heads at the University of London, Institute of Education. Schiller said he was interested himself and in 1955 he retired from the Ministry and took up the post of senior lecturer. The one year course ran between 1956 and 1963 and many of those who attended it would go on to become influential figures in the field of primary education themselves, such as Leonard Marsh, John Coe, Connie Rosen and Arthur Razzell.

Schiller left the Institute of Education in 1963 but remained actively involved in education lecturing, advising, visiting schools and acting as an external examiner and assessor. He was an influential figure in the establishment and development of Goldsmiths' College's Postgraduate Primary Course and Plowden Course. At Goldsmiths College he also sat on the Plowden Committee. Schiller continued to work right up until his death on 11 February 1976 at his home in Kenton, London.

Lyndall Schiller, wife of Christian Schiller, was born on 18 April 1900 in Acton, London to Fredrick and Ada Handover. She was educated at Godolphin and Latymer School and went on the read English at Royal Holloway College, University of London where she graduated with a first. She attended London Day Training College (1923-1924) to study for her Teachers' Diploma and it was here that she met Christian Schiller. She taught English and French at Twickenham [and later at Clitheroe]. As was usual for most women at the time, on her marriage Lyndall gave up teaching. She married Christian Schiller on 19 August 1925.


Apart from the notebooks, some of the correspondence, scripts and the diaries of Schillers' daughters' childhood development which arrived at the Institute of Education in rough order, the bulk of the material displayed no original order and was held mostly within miscellaneous files and old envelopes. The material has therefore been divided into sections and series consisting of similar material and is arranged as far as possible chronologically within these sections and series. Items where the date has not been established have been listed after those with known dates.

Access Information



Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form.

Access to diaries recording his daughters' development (Ref: DC/CS/LS/A/1-5) is on the condition that the word of warning written by the daughters is read.

Acquisition Information

In July 1998 the National Primary Education Archive was wound up and the collections dispersed; the majority of the collections, including these papers, came to the Institute of Education.

Other Finding Aids

These papers were listed by Emily Woolmore, September 1999.

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Custodial History

The majority of these papers (Sections A-L) were first deposited to the National Primary Education Archive on loan in October 1995 and were given as a gift in January 1997 by Schiller's children (NPEA Accession No. 97/1). Further deposits of papers relating to Schiller were later made by Heather Tanner and Len Cowee (Sections M-N).

Related Material

There is material relating to the courses Schiller taught at University of London Institute of Education in the Institute of Education's archives. There are also deposited papers directly related to this collection of Len Cowee and Dietrich Hanff.


Christopher Griffin Beale (ed.), 'Christian Schiller In His Own Words' (London: A & C Black, 1979); C Burke & I Grosvenor 'The progressive image in the history of education: stories of two schools' Visual Studies Volume 22:2 September 2007.