Tom Brown's School Days (sometimes written Tom Brown's Schooldays, also published under the titles Tom Brown at Rugby, School Days at Rugby, and Tom Brown's School Days at Rugby) is an 1857 novel by Thomas Hughes. The story is set in the 1830s at Rugby School, a public school for boys. Hughes attended Rugby School from 1834 to 1842.
Tom Brown's School Days has been the source for several film and television adaptations. It also influenced the genre of British school novels, which began in the nineteenth century, and led to fictional depictions of schools such as Billy Bunter's Greyfriars School, Mr Chips' Brookfield, and St. Trinian's. A sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, was published in 1861.
Tom Brown is energetic, stubborn, kind-hearted and athletic, rather than intellectual. He follows his feelings and the unwritten rules of the boys.
The early chapters of the novel deal with his childhood at his home in the Vale of White Horse. Much of the scene setting in the first chapter is deeply revealing of Victorian Britain's attitudes towards society and class, and contains a comparison of so-called Saxon and Norman influences on the country. This part of the book, when young Tom wanders the valleys freely on his pony, serves as a contrast with the hellish experiences in his first years at school.
His first school year is at a local school. His second year starts at a private school, but due to an epidemic of fever in the area, all the school's boys are sent home, and Tom is transferred mid-term to Rugby School.
On his arrival, the eleven-year-old Tom Brown is looked after by a more experienced classmate, Harry "Scud" East. Tom's nemesis at Rugby is the bully Flashman. The intensity of the bullying increases, and, after refusing to hand over a sweepstake ticket for the favourite in a horse race, Tom is deliberately burned in front of a fire. Tom and East defeat Flashman with the help of Diggs, a kind, comical, older boy. In their triumph they become unruly.
In the second half of the book, Dr Thomas Arnold (1795–1842), the historical headmaster of the school at the time, gives Tom the care of George Arthur, a frail, pious, academically brilliant, gauche, and sensitive new boy. A fight that Tom gets into to protect Arthur, and Arthur's nearly dying of fever, are described in loving detail. Tom and Arthur help each other and their friends develop into young gentlemen who say their nightly prayers, do not cheat on homework, and play in a cricket match. An epilogue shows Tom's return to Rugby and its chapel when he hears of Arnold's death.