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Response to Review of Children, Childhood and Youth in the British World

The editors are most grateful to the reviewer for reading, describing and offering tasters of the collection for the benefit of Reviews in History readers. Picking up on a couple of aspects of the review, we wish merely to point out that of the book's 15 chapters, six directly address indigenous children and related themes. As noted in the introduction, we are keenly aware of the way race impacted on the imperial experience of children, childhood and youth and we are pleased to have made a contribution to this important area of investigation. Since publication, we welcome the emergence of new work on indigenous childhoods – including Razy and Rodest’s Children on the Move in Africa: Past and Present Experiences of Migration (1) – and hope that areas too often overlooked elsewhere (and certainly presenting significant challenges in terms of historical evidence) continue to receive such attention. Editing the collection revealed the then current and geographically widespread gaps in the historical literature, and we would be delighted for our collection to serve as a springboard to further research.

The point on evidence links also to the reviewer's comments on difficulties in general with researching children's history, and in retrieving children's agency. This is certainly something that current historians of children and childhood are open in acknowledging and tackling. As recently as the later 1980s some historians were gloomy about the prospects of ever escaping adult-controlled discourse in writing histories of children's experiences. But the field has moved on considerably since then, and both in our introduction and throughout the collection, substantial evidence on young people's own perspectives is 'won' from often (but far from always) adult-generated archives of evidence. This is a particularly noteworthy achievement when mapping the history of children, childhood and youth from a considerable historical distance. Reading against the grain – in the best traditions of Walter Benjamin, whose own Berlin Childhood Around 1900 is one of our favourite works – offers rich possibilities for a way forward here, as exemplified by the youthful sexual encounters revealed in chapter 12, the resistance strategies in chapter seven, the letters home in chapters two and five, the park-based play activities in chapter 14, and the participation of girls in street subcultures as assessed in chapter 13.

In conclusion, we believe that this thoughtful summary review sets forth some of the broader challenges that historians of children, childhood and youth will encounter. It is our conviction that the material in the collection promotes innovative methodologies and provides a strong argument for age as a useful category of analysis during an era witnessing the waxing and waning of imperial dominance.

 

Notes

  1. Children on the Move in Africa: Past and Present Experiences of Migration, ed. Elodie Razy and Marie Rodet (Martlesham, 2016).Back to (1)