Horrible Histories? Children’s Lives in Historical Contexts
16-18 June 2016, King’s College London
Theme and Focus
It is now over forty years since the bold declaration of psychohistorian Lloyd deMause that ‘The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken’. Stirred by such claims, scholars have subsequently tested the ‘nightmare thesis’ for both the pre-modern and modern eras, locating children’s agency in unexpected places and stressing the contingencies of context, gender, ethnicity, age, class, caste and sexuality. Narratives of historic and contemporary institutional abuse, however, together with insights concerning the legacies of forced child migration, children’s labours and other challenging aspects of childhood experience, suggest that sorrow rather than joy characterises much scholarship on children and childhood. Should this be so?
In another context, since 1993 the phenomenally successful Horrible Historiesbooks, stage plays and television series have helped introduce countless thousands of children around the world to the past. As their titles indicate, Horrible Histories also examine difficult and sometimes grisly historical episodes. Progressive narratives are at work here too, reinforced by children’s museum exhibits emphasising an emergence from the ‘dark ages’ of childhood in the twentieth century.
‘Horrible Histories? Children’s Lives in Historical Contexts’ is the launch conference marking the inauguration of the new UK-based Children’s History Society. Offering a forum for historical reflections from established and upcoming historians of children, childhood and youth, we also anticipate that this will be a platform for school-age scholars to reflect on the ways they respond to the history. This three-day conference will host papers on the following themes:
- Dealing with difficult history and heritage
- Children’s histories and the longue durée
- The ‘West and the rest’ in children’s history
- Definitions of subjecthood and status
- Pain and resilience
- Archival approaches for retrieving children’s agency
- The things of childhood
- Play as protest, recreation and the ‘work’ of childhood
- Children’s histories in museums, online and in the media
- The histories of children’s places and places for children
- Future trajectories for researching children’s histories
Note that our definition of children is flexible, reflecting the multiple constructions through time of childhood as a social category.
A complete programme can be found here.
Source: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/ahri/eventrecords/2015-2016/MCAS/horriblehistories.aspx (additional information available there)