Jane Eva Baxter and Meredith A B Ellis (eds)
Oxbow Books, £40
Review Edward Biddulph
When we think about Victorian childhood, we probably conjure up images of ragged Dickensian street urchins, strict educations, and children seen and not heard. As we might expect, though – and as demonstrated in this book – the reality was far more varied and interesting.
In this thoughtful volume of essays, the contributing authors consider how children were used in the creation of national identities, the experiences of child migration and deportation, the impact of state institutions on shaping childhoods, what osteological and mortuary evidence tells us about the lives of children, and the role of children in advertising and as emerging consumers (if you thought that pester power is a modern phenomenon, this book will be an eye-opener).
The authors explore these themes using a range of sources and methods, among them historical records, literary evidence, and the technique of prosopography, to provide insightful and well-integrated perspectives on childhoods across continents. Many of the themes continue to have echoes today, making the book highly relevant in the study of the present as well as the past.