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A History of Childhood, 2nd Edition

ISBN: 978-0-7456-5165-1
256 pages
January 2018, Polity
A History of Childhood, 2nd Edition (0745651658) cover image


Colin Heywood's rich account of childhood from the early Middle Ages to the First World War provides a concise and readable synthesis of the extensive literature on childhood. He gives a long-run historical perspective on the key dimensions to childhood, including ideas on the nature of the child, relationships with parents, interactions with others of a similar age, and children's health, working life and education. The period covered runs from the early Middle Ages to the First World War, and the geographical spread runs from North America in the west to Russia in the east.

This new, comprehensively updated edition incorporates the findings of the most recent research, and in particular revises and expands the sections on theoretical developments in the 'new social studies of childhood', on medieval conceptions of the child, on parenting and on children's health. Rather than merely narrating their experiences from the perspectives of adults, Heywood incorporates children's testimonies, 'looking up' as well as 'down'. Paying careful attention to the elements of continuity as well as change in this field, Heywood argues that there is a cruel paradox at the heart of childhood in the past; on the one hand, material conditions for children have greatly improved, on the other, the business of preparing for adulthood has become more complicated in urban and industrial societies, and the young now face a bewildering array of choices and expectations. 

A History of Childhood, 2nd Edition will be an essential introduction to the subject for students of history, social sciences and cultural studies.
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Table of Contents

  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Changing Conceptions of Childhood
  • 1 Conceptions of Childhood in the Middle Ages
  • 2 The Quest for a Turning Point
  • 3 Some Themes in the Cultural History of Childhood
  • Part II: Growing up in the Family
  • 4 The Start of a New Life
  • 5 A Precarious Infancy
  • 6 Early Childhood, Age Two to Seven
  • 7 Later Childhood, Age Seven to Fourteen
  • Part III: Children in a Wider World
  • 8 Children at Work in Agricultural Societies
  • 9 Child Labour and Industrialization
  • 10 Children's Leisure Activities
  • 11 Children's Health
  • 11 The Child and the School
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Select Bibliography
  • Index
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Author Information

Colin Heywood is Emeritus Professor of Modern French History at the University of Nottingham
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New to This Edition

-Incorporates the most recent research in the field
-Includes revised and expanded sections on theoretical developments in the ‘new social studies of childhood’, medieval conceptions of the child, parenting, and children's health
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"This is a lively, accessible and compelling overview of how childhood has been thought about and experienced over the last 800 years. Grounded in recent scholarship it provides a very effective summary of key debates, approaches and themes. It is an excellent introduction to the topic for students, and essential reading for all those interested in the ways in which children's lives have changed for better or worse across time."
Louise Jackson, University of Edinburgh

"Anyone interested in the history of childhood will do well to start with Heywood's fine work. It covers necessary topics, like child labor, schooling and health, but also subtler ones including child agency, the relationship of children to good and evil and the "value" of children. It is also a great read."
Carl Ipsen, Indiana University
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