Since the publication in 1960 of Philippe Ariès’s foundational, if problematic, Centuries of Childhood, the history of childhood has developed into a rich and varied field. At the annual conference of the Western Society for French History in 2018, a call for panelists for a roundtable on the history of childhood expanded into two separate panels ranging from the medieval era through the thirty glorious postwar years. The panelists and the audience grappled with questions about the social construction of age, the ages of childhood, and the challenges of finding sources for a group that left few “ego documents.” Although children per se never exercised political or global power, attention to children clarifies how critical children were to political and international systems. Material generated by children themselves can be difficult to locate, but adults generated plenty of material about children. The intersectionality of the history of childhood with fields like labor history, urban history, the history of the welfare state, and the history of psychology parallels the intersectionality of children themselves, who come from every race, social class, and gender. All humans, it turns out, start out as children.
Uncovering the Politics of Playtime
Gender and Rural Modernization in Postwar France
After World War II, France’s rural Catholic youth associations (Jeunesse agricole catholique [JAC] and its sister organization, Jeunesse agricole catholique féminine [JACF]) organized a traveling home expo for agrarian families. The Rural Home Expo promoted a vision of rural modernization that drew on gendered models of postwar consumerism, economic development, and Catholic teaching on the family. The new rural home envisioned by JAC helped popularize and advance policies to industrialize French agriculture. By the mid-1950s, female activists resisted the gendered division of labor on which this vision was based. In 1957, JACF shifted its mission to promote women’s participation in the agricultural profession.
Autistic Children and the Normativity of Play in Postwar France
In postwar France, the definition of play helped to situate the meaning of childhood in a manner that marginalized disabled children from the common understanding of childhood. Three thinkers—Françoise Dolto, Maud Mannoni, and Fernand Deligny—all advocated more nuanced and open definitions of play that allowed for the recognition of disabled children’s forms of play, which often operated outside of social norms. In their practices, each of these thinkers articulated new interpretations of play that expanded its meaning in social and therapeutic contexts. This recognition was important in questioning the isolation of disabled children, in identifying their belonging among other children, and in revealing the changing boundaries of definitions of childhood.
Unearthing Children's Play in the Public Parks of Interwar Paris
By the interwar years, Parisian parks—artificial pockets of nature in the densely built city—had become a locus of debates around “child-friendly play spaces.” The diversity of Paris’s young population in age, gender, and social status meant that the criteria of what constituted “child-friendly” was constantly in flux and that definitions of childhood remained fluid. Interwar Parisian parks became spaces of debate over proper forms of outdoor play and the risks children faced while playing. Municipal administrators and elected municipal councilors, together with pedagogues and parents, mutually constructed the spaces of parks and park-use policies. Children’s presence in public acted both as an incentive and a challenge in creating municipal policies to regulate public spaces or in reconfiguring the organization of these spaces. Municipal council debates, parents’ petitions or complaints, reports filed by neighborhood representatives, and daily logs recorded by park guards all reveal how children’s actions in green spaces played a pivotal role in the making and remaking of the urban environment.
Despite some scholarly attention, the Native-American–Chinese association is mainly studied from the White perspective. One may get the impression that connections between the two similarly marginalized groups are either imagined or promoted by Whites for their own benefit. But, as a matter of fact, American Indians, joined by their White friends, did initiate associations with the Chinese out of their own racial considerations. One case in point is Pan-Indians’ reference to the Chinese in the process of forging a united and unique identity for the Indian race at the turn of the twentieth century. With those allusions, Native Americans were constructed into a group that was exceptional and progressive, benevolent and cosmopolitan—in short, a group that Whites should accept and respect as fellow Americans. Passively involved in proving Indians’ eligibility for American nationality, the Chinese emerged as racialized but less repugnant than they had been in Whites’ racist depictions. Pan-Indians’ citation of the Chinese thus registers the caution with which they navigated the constraints imposed by American racism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Humanists, Clashing Cartesians, Jesuits, and the New Physiology
Jeffrey D. Burson
During the sixteenth century, Jesuit renovations of medieval Aristotelian conceptions of the soul afforded an important discursive field for René Descartes to craft a notion of the soul as a substance distinct from the body and defined by thought. Cartesianism, however, augmented rather than diminished the skeptical crisis over the soul and the mind–body union. This article explores the work of a Jesuit intellectual, René-Joseph Tournemine, whose attempt to navigate between Malebranche’s Cartesianism and the metaphysics of Leibniz proved influential during the eighteenth century in ways that intersect with the development of Enlightenment biological science. Tournemine’s theologically motivated conjectures about the nature of the mind–body union reinforced an important shift away from considering the soul as a metaphysical substance in favor of seeing it as a pervasive motive force or vital principle animating the human organism.
Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) is commonly remembered as the archnemesis of economics, which he notoriously dubbed “the dismal science.” This article, however, suggests that Carlyle’s ideas in fact had a considerable influence among economists during the decades following his death. Indeed, an array of economists cited Carlyle in criticizing self-interest, laissez-faire, and materialism, in suggesting that economic science ought to accord greater importance to moral and ethical factors, and in urging the “Captains of Industry” and the state to exercise paternal guidance over the working classes. In short, Carlyle’s writings shaped these economists’ understanding, portrayal, and critique of the previous generation of so-called “old” economists, as well as their self-understanding as self-professed “new” economists.
Elizabeth C. Macknight
Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques is dedicated to publishing work across all fields of intellectual-cultural history and the history of religion and mentalities. The five articles brought together in this issue are by historians who specialize in the modern era; their contributions featured here extend in chronological range from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first century. These writings all demonstrate the journal’s longstanding interest in the historical processes by which new ideas are generated, transmitted and received in societies.
Legal Orientalism and French Jesuit Knowledge Production in India
Letters written by early modern missionaries played an important role in the development of global intellectual networks and inquiry into religion, language, cartography, and science. But the historical ethnography of law has not recognized the role that Jesuits played in creating the field of comparative law. This article examines the writings on law in India by the French Jesuit Jean-Venant Bouchet, who was an important source for Enlightenment philosophes and later Orientalists. It considers Bouchet’s systemic accounts of Indian law alongside his more ethnographic description of his legal encounters in South India, and argues that the practice of conversion and experiences in local legal fora determined and shaped Bouchet’s interpretation of Indian law. In other words, legal scholarship was produced in spiritual, religious, and political contexts, and cannot be abstracted from them.
The Sarajevo Assassination in History, Memory, and Myth
How has the Sarajevo assassination been conjured and construed, narrated and represented, in a wide variety of media including fiction, film, newspapers, children’s literature, encyclopedias, textbooks, and academic writing itself? In what ways have these sources shaped our understanding of the so-called “first shots of the First World War”? By treating the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (28 June 1914) as a "site of memory" à la historian Pierre Nora, this article argues that both popular representations and historical narratives (including academic writing) of the political murder have contributed equally to the creation of what I identify here as the “Sarajevo myth.”