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There's 350 year old books that more or less use phonics - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/06/phonics-taught-3...

Before that ... who knows? I think English was mostly phonetic at the time, with modern inconsistencies being a more modern innovation. Sight-reading was almost unheard of, everyone read by sounding words out aloud (presumably subconsciously sight-reading as they got better at it). Presumably teachers used phonics of some kind since it never even occurred to anyone that people did anything other than read phonetically.




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