Twentieth-century English boys’ annuals often defined masculinity against notions of the “otherness” of gender, race and class. The children’s annual, which developed as a popular literary form during the Victorian period, was designed to instruct and entertain. Dominant ideologies about gender, race and class were reproduced and reinforced for an uncritical readership. High production values meant that annuals became a form of “hard copy,” re-read by several generations. In boys’ annuals, mid-Victorian styles of masculinity were reiterated during the twentieth century. In these narratives, boy heroes demonstrated superiority to various groups of “others,” thereby modelling and inscribing an increasingly old-fashioned masculinity and preserving older ideologies. Exploring a neglected area of ideological history of gender, this article shows how boys’ annuals presented readers with notions of “masculinity” defined by comparison with “the other,” who might be indigenous, feminine or lower-class.
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