This chapter explores the beginnings of formal education in Western Europe, and considers the antecedents of the work of the pioneers. It provides a short history of childhood in ancient and medieval European society and considers the pedagogical philosophies of two eighteenth-century philosophers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau from France and John Locke from England. Childhood depends first and foremost on economic systems. In agricultural societies, the practice of children being cared for and educated solely within the family continued. Religion, predictably, was central to European formal education in the Middle Ages. Medieval Christians believed that it was adults' most important duty to lead children away from childishness as quickly as possible, instilling dutifulness alongside spiritual and moral responsibility. It is clear that both Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and Robert Owen passionately believed that children should be holistically educated, a thread that runs through the pedagogy of all the pioneers.