My task for class tomorrow is to lead a discussion on the relationship between the “nation” and the child, and so I will begin that discussion in this post. After reading Stearns book “Childhood in World History” I walked away with two major conclusions, and many minor ones.
Although I already suspected this, I concluded that the nation (meaning, for the most part, the government) has an incredible influence on the concept of childhood within its borders.… Read the rest here
While reading Stearns’ full work, I couldn’t help but feel the same lack of faith towards delving into ‘history-ing’ children as a discipline, because I again found Stearns’ focus to be more about the impacts adults and society had on children during their respective eras rather than of the childhoods themselves. For example, Stearns spends a good deal of time examining various punishments enacted on children for misbehaving acts. Similar to our discussion last week, studying punishments (frankly) is convenient!… Read the rest here
Education is a major theme dispersed throughout Stearns full length book, Childhood in World History. Though mentioned sporadically through different sections of his book, I think what Stearns is trying to get at with education boils down to three main chronological themes. Firstly, how religion sparked the rise of importance of education. Secondly, the idea that children are the future led to the shift of children moving from the workplace into the classroom. Thirdly, stemming from the previous two revelations, a newfound obligation was born for parents to promote academic achievement and thus provide a solid, well-rounded education for their children.… Read the rest here
When considering the “modern model” of childhood according to Peter N. Stearns, there are many different images that come to mind. However, violence is typically not one of them. Nevertheless, exposure to violence has been a major part of the history of childhood, especially recently. Since the 1970’s, over 150 million children have been killed in various types of war. With these types of numbers, it is clear that violence has played a major part in defining the modern model, and vice versa.… Read the rest here
As a historian in a relatively new field, Mary Jo Maynes’ work reiterates the notions discussed in Stearn and Mintz although with a feminist angle. Maynes narrows her focus down to the history of females, but again (and more importantly), discreetly points to the lack of direct (children’s) historical evidence in this newly developing history. Maynes directly notes this when she writes, “life stories provide a unique perspective on the intersection of individual, collective, institutional, and societal evolution as captured in narratives” (119).… Read the rest here
Maynes, Mintz and Stearns give overviews of the study of children as historical “agents” throughout the modern practice of “doing” history. Maynes and Mintz both draw parallels to the beginnings of studying gender in history, particularly the “agency” of women. Both authors note that the introduction of both age and gender into the process of history reveals problem areas in the traditional historical process. Maynes emphasizes the need to look at personal stories to “rethink” the agency of children in history, with which I fully agree, but will personal stories be enough evidence to support future claims?… Read the rest here
The first three readings seem to collectively address how contemporary society has been able to shape how childhood and its’ history is looked at. Maynes begins emphasizing the importance of first-hand life stories and accounts in the history of childhood (and in her case women, too). So few sources actually come from children that it leaves their stories up to be subjectively told. Maynes then leads nicely into the Mintz reading by describing how the forming of one’s identity is “rooted” in childhood.… Read the rest here
The history of childhood is both a fairly undiscovered and misunderstood topic among scholarly work today. Recent research has sought to place it in it’s proper context and develop new ideas in regards to the way society typically thinks about it.
Stearns, Maynes, Mintz, and the Labels of Society
Mary Jo Maynes, Peter N. Stearns, and Steven Mintz each have written articles that portray the history of childhood in a new and important light. Maynes highlights the issue of agency and the role of childhood narratives, Stearns focuses on the specific study and origin of childhood happiness, while Mintz shows the use of childhood as a category of historical analysis.… Read the rest here