Project

What was the emotional reaction of children to the First World War? How did adults try to shape the emotional and moral outlooks of children, through various forms of education, both formal and informal? What was at stake regarding childhood emotions, for the future citizenry of the British Empire, and for the future of those Dominions who would use the war in forming distinct national identities, and as leverage for feelings of national independence? Raising Hope will begin to answer these questions, focusing specifically on the mobilization and enculturation of hope in the context of the widespread fear wrought by a war that touched all lives, however distant from actual fighting.

Raising Hope seeks to illuminate the relationship among Britain and its most important settler colonies and Dominions, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with specific focus on the tensions inherent in their shared but increasingly divergent notions of children, how they should be formed, and what they should become. Most importantly, the project aims to explore the tensions of Imperial belonging, through which children were taught to embrace notions of national identity and patriotism while at the same time acknowledging a sense of belonging to a larger and more powerful body. This sense of belonging was to be cultivated through the training of the emotions, using strategies developed before the war in relation to the formation of “character” as an embodied sense of morality. The question of what to hope for, and indeed what to fear, is likely to have changed in each national context as notions of national belonging, citizenship, and future security were tested in the crucible of a long and taxing war and its terrible reckoning. Raising Hope analyses the impact of these changes on the strategic planning concerning the raising of children, morally and pedagogically, and the role of constructing a “correct” emotional disposition in the formation of a new moral citizenry. It assesses how children themselves responded to this context of fear and to official attempts to influence their sense of hope for the future and their sense of national and imperial belonging. It also sets out to uncover the extent to which children in each national context were thought to be the embodiments of hope for the future, and the impact on children of new ideas of what that future ought to be, in tension with a knowledge of past colonial dependence and wartime experience.

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