wellingtongoose (wellingtongoose) wrote,

Hogwarts: an Evolution

(Copyright - mellie-lyn)

Hogwarts did not appear fully form out of the founders’ shared vision; it evolved slowly over the centuries to the recognisable school in the Harry Potter books.

The modern version of Hogwarts is a post-industrial concept of education, where children are organised by age and progress in a linear fashion through distinct phases of learning. It is nothing like what the founders would have set up over 1000 years ago.

I have previously explained that the concept of school, as we understand it, simply did not exist during the founders’ time (Hogwarts: a Founding). The only form of instruction that existed for common people in dark ages was apprenticeships. The founders must have taken dozens of personal apprentices to be instructed in their own unique trades.

In essence what the founders set up were four individual apprenticeship schemes which were independent of each other but happened to inhabit the same area – most likely a fortified town call Hogwarts which had existed on this site for millennia (Hogwarts: a Founding)

However the four individual “schools” did eventually unite into one.

I explain:

  • What prompted the four different apprenticeship schemes to unite into one

  • What happened after Slytherin left

  • The original role of the sorting hat

  • How Hogwarts evolved into the modern school seen in the books

The Great Schism

It is likely that in the beginning, the four founders were already friends and pooled certain resources like food, magic components, equipment and dwellings so that they could keep their enterprises economically viable. They would have worked independently and taught independently but there would have always been an element of sharing and co-operation.

To outsiders, the four founders and their apprentices probably looked like one entity long before they truly united. Unlike in fanfiction, we must remember that most changes in real life take time, and evolve gradually. It is most likely that Hogwarts School came into being in stages rather than one well planned leap. 

I would pinpoint the beginnings of true unity in Slytherin departing from Hogwarts (the town). We will never know exactly what caused the strife which prompted Slytherin to leave but never does the sorting hat blame Slytherin. In fact the sorting hat makes it clear in the song that fighting engulfed all the founders and probably also the entire town of Hogwarts. 

Slytherin’s departure left a large number of apprentices without a master, and probably also deprived Hogwarts town of a vital service.

In the dark ages apprentices did not receive a broad education, as this was not the point of apprenticeship. Instead, they were customarily bound to one master for a set number of years during which they worked for the master and learned on the job. In magical apprenticeships, legal documents were probably superseded by binding magical contracts.

The apprentices Slytherin left behind may still be magically bound to him, even if he was no longer physically present. Thus the other founders couldn’t just step into the void and take these apprentices on as their own. Additionally these apprentices probably weren’t suited to the different lines of work that the other three founders engaged in. The renowned sorting criteria for each house must have originally had the practical purpose of choosing apprentices who would be suitable for each trade the founders engaged in. For example I postulated that Gryffindor wanted brave apprentices because he was the resident beast tamer/monster hunter.

The only way the founders could save the situation would have been to start the process of amalgamation so that the abandoned Slytherin apprentices would not be left in the lurch. It may be that they dissolved the individual binding contracts of all the apprentices so that no one was confined to only one master. This meant that the apprentices could all receive training in more than one trade and obtain a broader education over all. This option may not have necessarily been a good thing for the apprentices because they would likely become jack-of-all traders and master of none, so I believe that most apprentices would have continued to stick to the more specialised and rigid system of learning from only one master.

Chinese Whispers

The “free” Slytherin apprentices may have chosen to stay on to work for the other three founders, but most likely previous apprentices who had finished training under Slytherin became his successors and took on his role.

With Slytherin’s departure, his ethos, methods of instruction and the qualities that Slytherin personally prized in his apprentices became diluted by the views and agendas of his successors. These successors had more of an influence on what we now consider to be the central ethos of Slytherin house than Slytherin himself. They took control at a vulnerable time and as they likely started young, managed to outlive all the other three founders, thus transmitting what they believed Slytherin would have wanted to future generations without any competing sources.

It is likely that they, and not Slytherin himself, contributed to the charming of the sorting hat. This explains why the sorting hat gives contradictory and inconsistent sorting criteria for Slytherin house. How ambition and cunning is linked to the dark arts and being a pureblood is beyond my capacity for explanation. Surely being from a noble and ancient lineage does not automatically make one hunger for greatness.

The Sorting Hat Speaks

It is likely that by the time the founders were reaching the end of their lives, they had become famous masters throughout the British Isles and even Europe. There is no reason to believe that they confined themselves to only British students at the time. Thus there probably were many more children wanting to become apprentices than could be accommodated by the founders.

It seemed that the founders either did not fully trust their chosen successors to choose the correct apprentices or perhaps everyone involved wanted a quicker, more objective way of picking out promising apprentices.

I believe that in the beginning the sorting hat didn’t just place children in the correct type of apprenticeship but it also had an option to reject them altogether. The idea that Hogwarts should have a place for every magical child in Britain was most likely a much later invention influenced by the muggle idea of compulsory education.  Masters have always reserved the right to reject children for apprentices based on their own preferences so there is no reason why the sorting hat couldn’t reject certain children entirely – especially as before the Hogwarts quill was invented, there was nothing stopping non-magical children from applying.

The invention of the sorting hat itself, with input from all the three remaining founders and Slytherin’s successors was the next stage of unification. At the beginning, children would directly apply to only the particularly founder they wanted to be apprenticed to because they wanted to learn the founder’s particular trade. However after the founders’ deaths all children wanting to become any type of apprentice with this establishment had to pass the same test

Thus in the eyes of the candidates and the wider community, the four apprenticeship schemes which had been completely separate were now one greater entity. It is likely that from this point in time, people simply talked about getting an apprenticeship in Hogwarts town instead of distinguishing between the different apprenticeships. Due to the fame of the founders, people now cared less about exactly which trade their children ended up learning. They simply wanted their child to become an apprentice in Hogwarts town.

Following the introduction of the sorting hat, I imagine that the four different apprenticeship schemes become more interwined.


I find it impossible to pinpoint the exact time when Hogwarts the school came into being. It is likely that the apprenticeships at Hogwarts came to dominate magical training in the British Isles, though the monopoly that Hogwarts has today was not yet established.

However as the country entered the late Middles Ages, the government became more stable and everyday life was less violent. Instead of constantly feuding, the aristocracy became busy funding the successive military campaigns in France, which ironically made England more peaceful.

There was a growing middle class of tradesmen, businessmen and rich farmers cashing in on the stability and the increased international trade. As this middle class grew so did the demand for education. Whilst in the Dark Ages literacy was only required if you were a monk copying scrolls, the new middle classes need to be educated to run their businesses. Latin at the time was a lingua franca of Europe and fluency was required for international trade. Not all of the newly minted middle class could not afford private tutors, so a larger scale and more economic method of education was needed.

This was where schools, as we would understand them, started to appear. They were independent from religious institutions where Latin was taught to young religious initiates. The first formal schools: Winchester and Owestry were set up in 1382 and 1407. Eton followed in 1440. They were almost all charitable institutions with noble sponsors designed to educate children of lesser means than the aristocracy. Latin was the core of the curriculum but pupils also received a boarder education and it was expect that pupils would go onto to become scholars at Universities.

It may have been around this time in the 15th century that Hogwarts changed its model of apprentices physically working in businesses to a more school-like environment. However even the modern Hogwarts school resembles a specialist vocational training institute more than a modern British secondary school, so the original practical ethos continued to exert a great influence.  

Hogwarts probably officially became a “school” in the late 15th/16th century. It is most likely that in this period specific classrooms were created inside Hogwarts castle, and a board curriculum was established. Instruction of pupils would have become completely amalgamated; all students would receive the same education, unlikely previously where instruction depended on which apprenticeship you had subscribed to.

Hogwarts would have been influenced to perform these changes during this time by the growth of the grammar schools. These schools were widely built from the 16th century onwards and they set the template for the modern British secondary education. They had dedicated classrooms, teaching aids and professional teachers. The curriculum in grammar schools was very similar throughout the country: consisting of English, Latin, arithmetic and religious instruction.

To preserve the traditions of each of the four different apprenticeship schemes, Hogwarts school used the very muggle idea of house systems borrowed from schools like Winchester and Eton to create four different houses. The pupils of each house would receive the same education but they would live, work and play together like the apprentices of each founder used to do in the beginning.

These changes towards to a more formal academic education would have been well underway by the time that wizarding seclusion was imposed in the 17th century.

However once seclusion was imposed, muggle developments in education would have only very slowly filtered into Hogwarts. Since seclusion Hogwarts has not really been directly influenced by the muggle education system. Instead it has continued along its own trajectory, evolving according to the needs of the isolated magical population.

We do know that Hogwarts follows the relatively new muggle primary/secondary school system, where by children change schools at age 11. This is most likely used to exploit the natural break in education so that muggleborn children do not need to be pulled out of school, which would cause the educational authorities to take an unhealthy interested. Hogwarts also makes its students take standardised external exams, which even for the muggle world was a relatively recently invention (last 70 years). This is most likely due to the need for the ministry of magic to discriminate between the increasingly large numbers of applicants it gets.

Despite becoming more like a modern day school, Hogwarts in the books is still primarily focused on vocational training and does not provide a broader education in subjects not directly related to the use of magic. For example English literature/language, mathematics, geography and religious studies do not feature in the curriculum.

The history of the castle itself will be explored in Hogwarts: the Castle.

The curriculum at Hogwarts is explored in Hogwarts: an Inspection

Tags: an endangered species, harry potter, wizarding world

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