A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times (Themes in History) Reviews

A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times (Themes in History)

A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times (Themes in History)

In this lively and accessible book, Colin Heywood explores the changing experiences and perceptions of childhood from the early Middle Ages to the beginning of the twentieth century. Heywood examines the different ways in which people have thought about childhood as a stage of life, the relationships of children with their families and peers, and the experiences of young people at work, in school and at the hands of various welfare institutions. The aim is to place the history of children and childhood firmly in its social and cultural context, without losing sight of the many individual experiences that have come down to us in diaries, autobiographies and oral testimonies.

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 generally improved in the West, however belatedly and unevenly, and they are now more valued than in the past. On the other hand, the business of preparing for adulthood has become more complicated in urban and industrial societies, as the young face a bewildering array of choices and expectations.

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

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2 Comments so far »

  1. hmf22 said,

    Wrote on February 19, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    brief overview of the field, July 6, 2010
    By 
    hmf22 (New York, NY) –

    This review is from: A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times (Themes in History) (Paperback)

    Colin Heywood’s History of Childhood is a brief overview of the state of the field as of 2001. In under 200 pages, Heywood traces the origins of scholarly interest in the history of childhood, summarizes Philippe Aries’s classic work and the major critiques of it, and outlines current thinking on several major topics, including infancy, early childhood, the “third stage” (from age 7 through adolescence), children’s labor, and education. Heywood’s treatment of each topic is inevitably very brief, and while he cites numerous primary sources, he sometimes uses them uncritically. I did not learn much history from this book; if you’re looking for an engaging overview of childhood in early modern and modern times, I would recommend Steven Mintz’s Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood or something similar. The merit of Heywood’s History of Childhood lies in Heywood’s extremely clear and succinct laying out of the major themes and research questions in the field. It would be useful to a graduate student preparing for comps or to someone who is just beginning a research project on some aspect of the history of childhood.

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  2. DEN said,

    Wrote on February 19, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Good, but plenty of other books are more helpful, June 24, 2011
    By 
    DEN

    This review is from: A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times (Themes in History) (Paperback)

    This book is a good general start for studying children’s history. I would have to say that it doesn’t really seem to present anything new to the field. There are definitely a lot of other great books on children’s history, and the discipline is growing. One site I found (childhistory.org) has a pretty good list of a variety of books that deal with the history of children and childhood, all of which are linked here to Amazon. Anyway, I look forward to more scholarly interest in something so fundamental to our lives as childhood.

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