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CFP: Challenges in the History of Childhood Conference, QMUL

November 14, 2014


Challenges in the History of Childhood Conference

Queen Mary University of London

Friday 16 January, 2015

One of the key challenges faced by historians of childhood is that children, “seldom seen and rarely heard in the documents, remain the most elusive” of all social groups (David Herlihy, Women, Family and Society in Medieval Europe, 1995). Because children from the past rarely speak to us directly, thinking about the history of childhood involves making meaningful connections between theory and practice, between ideal lives and lived experiences.

This can particularly be the case for children from poor, rural and other ‘marginal’ backgrounds whose lives were rarely described in written sources. Some of these challenges can be met through creative approaches, such as borrowing ‘lenses’ from other disciplines like art history, anthropology and archaeology, and the methods of the history of emotions. The challenges are many, as are the rewards.

With the aim to explore these issues our conference will bring together early career researchers and established scholars to discuss new approaches, methodologies and interdisciplinarity in the study of children. We particularly encourage those papers that move beyond criticisms of Ariès’s work, and towards new conceptions of childhood across historical periods and cultures. Speakers are invited to address any aspect of their research on the history of childhood. Themes and questions may include:

  • How does memory affect our understanding of childhood? Is the study of childhood more dependent on memory than other areas of scholarship?
  • What theoretical questions can we use? Is interdisciplinarity useful?
  • Defining childhood. How are we to understand age in the past? Is a definition of childhood possible? Is the definition bound by time?
  • What are the similarities and/or differences between understandings of childhood across periods and cultures?
  • How does childhood fit into a life cycle? How did experiences of childhood shape individual and collective futures?
  • Are there children’s ‘spaces’. How are we to understand the domestic, institutional and cultural spaces occupied by children?
  • Why study childhood? What does the study of childhood add to wider historical discourses?

We particularly welcome papers (of no more than 20 minutes) from postgraduate and early career researchers. Abstracts of 300 words should be sent to Catherine Rose at by 1 December 2014.

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