There is a claim that Roberto Nevilis invented homework in 1905 (sic). And it doesn't seem to be a recent meme - there are tons of pics for this meme claiming:

The person who invented homework was an Italian teacher named Roberto Nevilis. He invented Howework (sic) in 1905 (sic) as a punishment for his sutdents. (sic)

To what extent is this claim true?

  • 3
    Makes me sic just thinking about it. Sep 6, 2017 at 1:45

1 Answer 1


No. Homework was around before 1905:

In 1901, the California legislature passed an act that effectively abolished homework

So homework was around in 1901, which is before 1905.

I think you mean 1095.

A lot of websites seem to claim this, but the only ones that actually reference their source direct to Wiki Answers.

Scientists believed that Roberto Nevilis from Italy started homework in 1095. He was a school teacher in Venice.

This seems a little dodgy for a few reasons:

"Scientists believed" - surely it would be Historians? What Science is being done to determine it here? And why is it believed not believe? It seems a little made up.

"Roberto Nevilis" - there is nothing online about him except for sources similar to Wiki Answers (which I wouldn't say counts as a source). Roberto is an Italian name, but Nevilis seems to be made up. I checked with a number of Last Name sites, and only one found this surname, from a single person in the USA.

This seems to be getting more and more terse.

Now, education in Italy in 1095 was probably very minimal. In 1095 the Pope was organising the first crusade, and an organised education system wasn't created untill 1859. While it is likely that there was some schooling (based on English History) there was very little:

Education was still largely about vocational training and most pupils were still intending monks or priests, though 'there was probably an occasional extension, and there are certainly some recorded cases of the education of young members of royal and noble families'.

Note that the Romans did have schools, but by 1095, the Roman empire had well and truly fallen.

So it is likely that there was education, but probably not schools in the same way. Instead, nobility would have been taught in their homes, by tutors:

Henry VIII's education benefited from the instruction of many tutors

So there would have been little concept of homework from that time because all work was done at home.

The idea that homework was invented because of the expense of the presence of tutors also falls down here - royals typically have a lot of money.

Finally, there is a photograph attached to the quote. The image is of Burritt Haynes (found on this reverse image search), and he is from Winneshiek County, Iowa. So not even Italian. Also, it's a photograph. Not a painting.

So, I doubt the claim made here.

  • 5
    "but by 1095, the Roman empire had well and truly fallen" - however, the Byzantine empire was still alive (the eastern half of the Roman empire), although I'm not sure that they had schooling. Although, I would bet that the Middle East & Asia had proper schooling before Europe.
    – hichris123
    Jun 29, 2015 at 0:41
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    That's a pretty good photograph for 1095!
    – GEdgar
    Oct 17, 2015 at 20:19
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    The last name site you linked isn't 100% reliable. I've looked up my own last name on it (It's uncommon, only around 30 people have it) and there was no results. Most likely because no kid of this name was born since 1995. So rare or "extinct" surnames may not appear on this kind of sites at all. Aug 17, 2016 at 7:35
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    @Tim I don't see the connection between calling for a crusade and not having good education. Also note that Henry VIII's education happened about 400 years after 1095, so I don't really see the connection there. Also, there were both Cathedral Schools and Monastic Schools all over Europe, both of which would have been likely to contain Italians at pretty much any point in time. They weren't primary education, but that doesn't really conflict the idea of homework as punishment.
    – sgf
    Jul 2, 2017 at 9:17
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    @Communisty Actually, the question is asking about 1905 (and it mentions it multiple times). Please be careful before you edit.
    – Tim
    Sep 5, 2017 at 15:10

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