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Anna Stewart

MA work

The Objects and Environments of Maria Montessori and their Intergration within the British Educational Establishment, 1905-1930.

My dissertation explores the material culture of an educational method introduced to Britain in the early twentieth century by Maria Montessori. Montessori was an Italian doctor and pedagogue who designed a collection of educational materials and the environments in which to use them. These elements inspired a pedagogical method which was, and still is, used for teaching children aged two to six years old.


In educational spheres, much has been written about Montessori and her pedagogy but there is very little research on the historical significance of the materials. This paper approaches the topic from a history of design perspective by bringing together research from childhood studies, architectural history, material culture studies and the history of education to form a layered analysis of the topic.


The early twentieth century saw wide societal shifts towards childhood, a changing attitude towards children as independent beings, which contributed to significant childhood reforms in education and health. These reforms, driven by the middle class, looked to science and education for solutions to fundamental problems in society.


Montessori’s collection of objects was scientifically researched and designed to transfer early educational skills. The interior environments were prepared to transfer values of good hygiene, order and taste. This research aims to discover how Montessori designed notions of childhood through her educational materials and environments, and, how this notion of childhood was received in Britain at the start of the twentieth century.


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2017

  • I am a Design Historian and Writer with an interest in design for children. My other areas of research include the design of everyday architectural details and design for sleep.
  • Degrees

  • BA Media and Cultural Studies, Leeds Metropolitan University, 2002
  • Experience

  • Independent editorial and Design consultant, Anna Stewart, 5 years