Out on October 7: Childhood, Youth and Emotions in Modern History: National, Colonial and Global Perspectives

I am delighted to announce that a wonderful project that unfolded over the past 3 years will be published by Palgrave on October 7: Childhood, Youth and Emotions in Modern History: National, Colonial and Global Perspectives.

Cover Palgrave Olsen

The genesis of this volume was a conference on Childhood, Youth and Emotions in Modern History, held at the Centre for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in 2012. The reaction to the call for papers was enormous: we received over 200 applications, mostly from historians of childhood. My co-organizer, Juliane Brauer, and I realized that there was something particularly relevant about emotions to historians of childhood, but that until quite recently there had not been any rigorously developed historiographical means to get at them. We wanted to ask if there are particular emotions that are principally relevant in childhood. Can a focus on the history of emotions, its fundamental questions and its methodological approaches, be a productive exercise for historians interested in childhood and youth? Can it open up new ways to uncover children’s voices? And also, can the participation of historians of childhood and youth further the field of emotions history? And can it tell us something new about children in particular settings (both at the micro and macro levels, the intimate and the global), in various relationships of power and dependence. The result of all these questions is the book.

From the initial conference, our thinking has come a long way. I invited several more historians of childhood who were not at the conference to join the project. Chapters were selected for international representation (but not necessarily global within each chapter): East Germany, Britain, New Zealand, Uganda, India, China, Colombia and the US, and in chapter 2, Canada, Australia, Denmark. The topics covered are crucial ones for historians of childhood, including politics, space, schooling, gender, sexuality, families, peers, youth groups, and all of these were informed by questions from the history of emotions. I hope you will find the book as useful to read, as I found the writing, collaboration and discussions with the book’s contributors!

In order to give you a little taste of the depth and breadth of the book, here’s the table of contents:

1. Introduction; Stephanie Olsen
2. Emotions and the Global Politics of Childhood; Karen Vallgårda, Kristine Alexander, and Stephanie Olsen
3. Feeling like a Child: Narratives of Development and the Indian Child/Wife; Ishita Pande
4. Teaching, Learning, and Adapting Emotions in Uganda’s Child Leprosy Settlement, c.1930-62; Kathleen Vongsathorn
5. Settler Childhood, Protestant Christianity, and Emotions in Colonial New Zealand, 1880s-1920s; Hugh Morrison
6. Architecture, Emotions, and the History of Childhood; Roy Kozlovsky
7. Space and Emotional Experience in Victorian and Edwardian English Public School Dormitories; Jane Hamlett
8. Emotional Regimes and School Policy in Colombia, 1800-1835; Marcelo Caruso
9. Feeling like a Citizen: The American Legion’s Boys State Programme and the Promise of Americanism; Susan A. Miller
10. Disciplining Young People’s Emotions in the Soviet Occupation Zone and Early German Democratic Republic; Juliane Brauer
11. Inscribing War Orphans’ Losses into the Language of the Nation in Wartime China, 1937-1945; M. Colette Plum
12. Everyday Emotional Practices of Fathers and Children in Late Colonial Bengal, India; Swapna M. Banerjee
13. Anti-vaccination and the Politics of Grief for Children in Late-Victorian England; Lydia Murdoch


Imperial Indian Soldiers and their Depiction in British Children’s Books

This is the first of a series of posts by Joseph James, an M.A. student at McGill University, and a research assistant for the Raising Hope project.

By Joseph James

India, however, is not a British land peopled by men and women of British speech. It is a foreign land whose people speak several strange languages, and live in many ways quite different from ourselves. It is a land under our rule too, and the Germans say that if we are too busy to look after India some day, her people would turn against us. Well the Great War came and we were very busy indeed. But the people of India did not turn against us. Instead of this thousands begged to be allowed to fight for us; and those who could not fight for us went to their temples and prayed so that we might win.

Indian soldiers played a prominent role within the British Imperial army. Their exploits are now widely recognized, particularly in light of the centenary of the start of the First World War. And, indeed, at the time they were also widely recognized for their service to the Empire. This lead Indian soldiers, however, being to be presented within a very specific framework, one of orderly control and subservience to the Union Jack, with their otherness serving as a function of the range of power that the Empire was able to exert over the globe and the many different peoples whose land was coloured red on the map. These descriptions served to reaffirm to the viewer the power of the Empire and its sway over the territory it controlled, as the above quotation from the 1919 school pamphlet, Brother Britons, by Richard Wilson, suggests. The combination of the military and the exotic allowed for the combination of two of the arguably most prominent tropes in children’s literature, particularly when aimed at young boys. Considering the books were written at a time where literature such as Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book still shaped perceptions of the Orient it is not surprising that children’s authors would seek to incorporate some of the associated exoticism and wonder into their writings, as underscored by the reference to grateful Indians praying at their temples for British victory, enhancing the links between their otherness and their devotion to the Empire. So it went: not only will these strange people beg to fight for us, but they will pray to their strange Gods too.

There were also more direct references to the way in which the War did in fact bring the subjects of the Empire closer together. As Wilson mentions again in his book, “The Great War knit together all different parts of our Empire in one great brotherhood. The feeling of brotherliness had been there before the war had begun, but the fighting and the danger showed it up very clear to the world.” This is of course not an event exclusive to this particular context, with wars often serving as unifying forces for states or Empires. However the way in which it was manifested certainly was particular to the context, with descriptions of the soldiers serving to hone in on their otherness, as this quotation from Edward Parrott’s book The Children’s Story of the War written in 1916 shows, “In times of peace we maintain in India…a native army of about 160,000 men recruited from many castes and races. Chief among these are the Sikhs, a fierce warrior caste, whose home is the Punjab Long.” The passage then goes onto list the other types of soldiers in the native army, their homes and habits. This provides another example of how Indian soldiers are presented as elements in the imperial roster to be deployed against the Germans. By discussing their places of residence, ‘the Punjab Long,’ ‘The rugged tableland of Beluchistan,’ or the ‘mountains of Nepal,’ the author further highlights the soldiers otherness by evoking the mysterious and distant geography of their homelands, exoticising the soldiers and describing another group of people happy to submit to the Empire and loyally serve them.

James indian soldiers

If an image is a 1,000 words then this image serves as a compact way to finish this blog whilst showing a revealing story. Above we have a picture taken of Indian soldiers billeted in Saint James’ park, taken from Parrott’s second volume of his The Children’s Story of the War. Here we have Sikh soldiers, wearing their soldiers’ uniforms, showing their service to the British Empire, but whilst also showing their cultural difference, allowing for a physical representation of the varied cultures of the Empire contained within the overarching Imperial ‘uniform’. That they are also billeted in St James’ park speaks volumes to what seems to be the ‘domesticating’ of the exotic Indian soldiers by the Empire. Overall these depictions serve to reinforce in their young readers notions of the might of the British Empire by allowing the Indian soldiers to serve as an exoticised prop through which the young readers could feel pride in the war effort and the Empire more generally.

Thanks to everyone who has read, bought or commented on Juvenile Nation.

Juvenile Nation is now out in paperback! The book is one of the first attempts at using a history-of-emotions approach in the history of childhood and the history of Britain and Empire. I am delighted it has been finding a responsive readership since it was first published in 2014.


From the Bloomsbury website:

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1: Stakeholders of Youth
Chapter 2: Moral and Emotional Consensus
Chapter 3: Domestic Bliss? Husband, Wife and Home
Chapter 4: The Child: Father to the Man?
Chapter 5: Re-casting Imperial Masculinity: Informal Education and the Empire of Domesticity
Chapter 6: Storm and Stress: The ‘Invention’ of Adolescence



“Olsen’s astute, meticulously documented, and compelling account of the emergence of modern boyhood and adolescence illuminates aspects of fin-de-siécle British society that have been overlooked. It is a wonderful addition to a growing literature on youth and masculinity.” –  Joanna Bourke, Birkbeck, University of London, American Historical Review

About Juvenile Nation

In the first five months of the Great War, one million men volunteered to fight. Yet by the end of 1915, the British government realized that conscription would be required. Why did so many enlist, and conversely, why so few? Focusing on analyses of widely felt emotions related to moral and domestic duty, Juvenile Nation broaches these questions in new ways.

Juvenile Nation
examines how religious and secular youth groups, the juvenile periodical press, and a burgeoning new group of child psychologists, social workers and other ‘experts’ affected society’s perception of a new problem character, the ‘adolescent’. By what means should this character be turned into a ‘fit’ citizen? Considering qualities such as loyalty, character, temperance, manliness, fatherhood, and piety, Stephanie Olsen discusses the idea of an ‘informal education’, focused on building character through emotional control, and how this education was seen as key to shaping the future citizenry of Britain and the Empire.

Juvenile Nation recasts the militarism of the 1880s onwards as part of an emotional outpouring based on association to family, to community and to Christian cultural continuity. Significantly, the same emotional responses explain why so many men turned away from active militarism, with duty to family and community perhaps thought to have been best carried out at home. By linking the historical study of the emotions with an examination of the individual’s place in society, Olsen provides an important new insight on how a generation of young men was formed.

– See more at: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/juvenile-nation-9781474247948/#sthash.J7XCBaoS.dpuf

Embodying Hope: Vaccination During the Napoleonic Wars

by Rob Boddice

Vaccination was born in a time of war. Children, principal vectors of the smallpox virus, became the incubators of immunological hope.

V0011691 The history of vaccination seen from an economic point of vi Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The history of vaccination seen from an economic point of view: A pharmacy up for sale; an outmoded inoculist selling his premises; Jenner, to the left, pursues a skeleton with a lancet. Coloured etching, c. 1800. Published: [c. 1800] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Jenner chases death from Parisian streets as vaccinated children play at the feet of a bankrupt inoculator and his closed premises. Paris, c. 1800. Wellcome Library, London.

Prior to the massive public-awareness campaign spearheaded by Edward Jenner in 1798, distributing both the knowledge and the means of safe protection against smallpox, the smallpox virus itself had been preserved and propagated in the arms of children. It was common medical practice, in fact well into the nineteenth century, to inoculate children with smallpox in the hope that they would escape with a light dose of the disease. Jenner himself had suffered the ordeal at the age of 8. It involved six weeks of preparation – purging, bleeding and starving – in order to ‘sweeten the blood’. The process left the young Jenner ‘emaciated and feeble’. In this weakened state he was given a dose of smallpox and left to endure the disease for two weeks in a Gloucestershire ‘inoculation stable’. The process of recovery took many months, but such was the norm. Inoculation was a rite of passage, a necessary evil, an awful commonplace. Between 2 and 3 per cent of those ‘protected’ in this manner died from the disease. On many occasions the ‘protected’, not sufficiently isolated from their communities, themselves precipitated epidemics. Jenner, before making his famous discovery, would inoculate many children himself, as was his duty as a country surgeon.

Jenner confirmed, with an uncommon meticulousness and experimental rigour, that cowpox – variolae vaccinae – was a benign disease, not contagious, could be cultivated in humans and afforded protection against smallpox. The process took many years and involved many an experiment on children, including on his own. From the first, Jenner wanted to make the knowledge freely available, to broadcast it beyond political obstacles and geographical boundaries. Many thought it would have served him, and England, to make the vaccine a proprietary matter. Patent it, Jenner! Sell it to the well-to-do, the government, the army and the navy! What a fighting force it would be that could evade the most dreaded foe – disease! Here was hope at the end of a lancet.

Risking his status as a patriot, Jenner distributed his vaccine and his knowledge freely. His how-to guide on vaccination was quickly translated into French and Spanish. While England’s medical establishment were busy wringing their hands about the potential demise of a lucrative inoculation business, it was Napoleon’s army that took to the field free of one of the oldest fears. Jenner was a hero in France, the recipient of a Napoleon Medal, correspondent of the Emperor, and negotiator for the release of political prisoners held in France. From Paris to Geneva and Madrid, Jenner was a hero. In France alone, the number of deaths from smallpox went down from 150,000 annually to only 8,500. The children of the French empire had their arms raised for protection; their parents raised theirs in salute. Jenner was the man to whom Napoleon himself could refuse nothing.

Jenner’s discovery went viral thanks to the orders of the Spanish King Charles IV, who sent Francis Xavier Balmis on a vaccination voyage that took in South America, the Asian colonies, Portuguese colonial settlements, and even China. Always, the front line of defence against smallpox was embodied by children, who literally carried the virus, incubating it in their arms, to be harvested and inserted into the arms of others. Military enmity aside, Jenner thought the whole thing a ‘glorious enterprize!’, announcing that he, at least, had ‘made peace with Spain, and quite adore her philanthropic monarch’.

Jenner hoped for freedom from disease and for an end to childhood suffering and parental fear. Those who used his discovery hoped for a healthy population, for a healthy fighting force, and for victory. The bodies of children were at once the sites of all these hopes: demographic, medical and military.

An Unexplored History: Civilians and a Latent Enthusiasm for Warfare

By Michele Haapamaki

…the Zeppelin drifted perpendicularly in the darkened sky, a gigantic pyramid of flames, red and orange, like a ruined star falling slowly to earth. Its glare lit up the streets… The spectacle lasted two or three minutes. It was so horribly fascinating that I felt spell-bound – almost suffocated with emotion, ready hysterically to laugh or cry. When at last the doomed airship vanished from sight there arose a shout the like of which I never heard in London before – a hoarse shout of mingled execration, triumph and joy; a swelling shout that appeared to be rising from all parts of the metropolis, ever increasing in force and intensity.

— Diarist Michael MacDonagh, commenting on the Zeppelin ship “Heinrich Mathy,” brought down north of London in a spectacular conflagration on the night of 1-2 October 1916.[1]

This individual diarist was an ordinary Londoner, enraptured by novelty and fright during the first “Total War.” His first-person account gives us retrospective insight into the complexity of civilian emotion in response to war and destruction. Civilians have been integral to warfare for at least the last one hundred years. For the most part they are usually depicted or imagined as victims – which they often are. On other occasions they are conceived of as essential and enthusiastic participants, such as occurred during the Blitz in Great Britain.

Michele picture 2 The_End_of_the_'Baby-Killer'

British propaganda postcard, entitled “The End of the ‘Baby-Killer.” WWI Zeppelin raids over London and other British cities both terrified and fascinated civilians.

Largely because it is disquieting to our collective sense as humane, civil, and empathetic people, there are aspects of the “gleeful” response to war exhibited by MacDonagh and his fellow Londoners which we may willfully wish to ignore. We don’t like to envisage ourselves as excited and thrilled by the spectacle of destruction or the death of enemy combatants or civilians, but very often this is exactly the emotional response which rises to the surface. As historians, this perspective has been only scantly addressed, partly because truly accessing such historical data is a fraught prospect. It is a perspective commonly glossed over by journalistic accounts, with their neat categorizations of conflict – just or unjust, assigning blame, and delineating the elements of humanitarian crisis. Certainly “official” accounts, from which we derive many narratives of past conflicts, have obvious or obscured agendas. Governments seek to bolster morale, endorse patriotism, and manage information for the benefit of both enemies and allies. There is certainly also ample time to interview remaining survivors of twentieth-century conflicts about this very emotion by way of conducting oral histories.

Historians are, it seems, increasingly comfortable with borrowing from a variety of sources to form a whole picture of “normal” reactions to war. Though not of immediate historical relevance, I find that many non-academic accounts provide insights into war and emotion that are of at least contemplative use, even within more formal histories. Sebastian Junger, in his fascinating book War (via his experiences with an American army outpost in Afghanistan), presents the notion that “the defense of the tribe is an insanely compelling idea.”[2] Civilians, particularly civilian men, can suffer a loss of status by virtue of being a noncombatant. As Junger puts it, “self-sacrifice in defense of one’s community is virtually universal among humans, extolled in myths and legends all over the world.”[3] It is an idea that individuals are inevitably drawn to. The prestige of the warrior extends so deeply into our collective identity, and it would be unfathomable that the thrill of so closely witnessing warfare does not profoundly affect civilians as well. We do know, for example, about the demands for “revenge attacks” in 1917 following aerial attacks and how civilians appropriated the idea of themselves being warriors-by-proxy. Historians can and should probe more instances of war fervor and its expression in individual accounts. Joanna Bourke has written about how the “fearful” civilians of the First World War were rhetorically transformed into the indomitable citizens of the Second.[4] Her studies and others looking into the mindset of people under the constant threat of war can further illuminate the actions of wartime workers, fire watchers, ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Wardens, and other groups that have been frequent subjects of historical inquiry. In my own studies, comprising the lead-up to war in 1939, we can see how concern over individuals’ emotional reactions to war tended only to focus on fear or neurotic breakdown and how to avoid their mass manifestation. It is clear, however, that actual reactions were far more complex and, to many observers, even surprising.

[This is a follow-up piece to the author’s previous post about the reactions of civilians to air raids and the durability of morale.]

[1] Jerry White, Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War (London: The Bodley Head, 2014), p. 172

[2] Sebastian Junger, War (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2010), 214.

[3] Junger, p. 242.

[4] Joanna Bourke, Fear: A Cultural History (London: Virago, 2005), pp. 222-254