In this analysis, Sarah A. Curtis shows how Catholic primary schooling played a key role in transforming France into a modern nation between 1830 and World War I. Focusing on Lyon, the Rhone, and the industrial Loire Valley - the most populated regions outside Paris - she finds persuasive evidence that Catholic teaching orders created the foundations for the modern French educational system. Curtis draws on archives of the teaching orders themselves, as well as on diocesan and Vatican archives. Her argument that decisions about schooling were driven by pragmatic as well as ideological considerations, for example, substantially revises long-eheld myths about the nature and objectives of French schooling. Although the influence of the church has diminished generally, 19th-century Catholic schools left and imprint on French education, culture and society that endures to this day.