This article presents an interdisciplinary approach to archival research on records produced by children that survive in family archives. It corresponds with the aims of education specialists who investigate patterns in language learning to understand how young minds absorb influences concurrently from familial, religious, and social circles across disparate cultural settings. Drawing upon the concept of syncretic literacy, the article interprets French archival evidence of children’s development of linguistic competency and sensitivity to language use in context. It argues for the need to advocate both the conservation of children’s archives and the design of educational programs that enable children to discover the role of archivists and the purposes of recordkeeping in society.
Children's Literacy in Rural France, 1800–1950
Elizabeth C. Macknight
The English conquest of Ireland during the sixteenth century was accompanied by extreme violence. Historians remain divided on the motivations behind this violence. This article argues that the English violence in Ireland may be attributed to four main factors: the fear of foreign Catholic intervention through Ireland; the methods by which Irish rebels chose to fight; decisions made by English officials in London to not fund English forces in Ireland at a reasonable level while demanding that English officials in Ireland keep Ireland under control; and the creation of a system by which many of those who made the plans never had to see the suffering they inflicted. The troops who carried out the plans had to choose between their own survival and moral behaviors that placed their survival at risk.
Israeli poet Yonatan Ratosh was the leader of the Young Hebrews, a nationalist group active from the 1940s to the 1970s. Despite his opposition to Zionism and his aspiration to revive the ancient Hebrews’ premonotheistic civilization, Ratosh shared Zionism’s ambition to elaborate a new Israeli identity. One prominent act of this mission involved enlarging the literary corpus in Hebrew through translation. Although initially a means of income, for Ratosh translation increasingly came to be a way to express his ideological position and his self-image as an intellectual. Thus, Ratosh provides an example of how developing a national identity can coincide with appropriating foreign literature. With his regular exhortations that Hebrew readers attain knowledge of foreign cultures, Ratosh did not intend to promote cosmopolitanism. Rather, he considered these endeavors as ultimately reinforcing a “Hebrew” identity.
Working-Class Boyhood and the Policing of Play in Belle Époque Paris
By the end of the nineteenth century, working-class children increasingly fell under adult supervision. Working-class boys, however, retained much autonomy over their leisure time. By examining memoirs and police archives, this article shows that boys’ play often flirted with the criminal or the dangerous. When boys entered the workplace, this reputation for lawless play followed them. Drawing on accident reports, this article demonstrates that employers and republican labor inspectors blamed boys for dangerous workplace accidents by highlighting boys’ playful nature. The article concludes by showing how reformers constructed spaces for boys’ leisure in an attempt to tame and direct their play. I argue that this reckless play became one of the defining characteristics of working-class boyhood both within peer society and to external observers. Regulating boys’ play thus became a way to ensure that they matured seamlessly into worker-citizens.
Culture and Decolonization in the Dutch Caribbean, 1948–1975
This article explores the history of the Foundation for Cultural Cooperation between the Netherlands, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles (Sticusa), asking how cultural institutions partook in the process of decolonization. Analyzing the perspectives of Sticusa collaborators and critics in the Caribbean, I argue that cultural actors saw decolonization as an opportunity to reorient cultures toward an emergent world order. In this process, they envisioned a range of horizons, from closer integration with Europe to enhanced affinity with the broader Americas. By the 1970s, however, these horizons narrowed to the attainment of national sovereignty, and Sticusa’s cultural experiment ended as a result.
Uncovering the Politics of Playtime
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.
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.