The relationship between slavery, colonialism, capital accumulation and economic development has long been an issue that has exercised political economists and economic historians, though it is perhaps fair to say that it tends to be neglected in standard university courses for undergraduates.
If we survey the historical profession at the moment, there are plenty of academic squabbles going on, but the great debates that once divided historians seem to be in short supply. Time was when contests over the standard of living during the industrial revolution or about post-modernism and its application to the study of history would drive scholars into a frenzy of position taking.
Empire’s Children is far from the now well-worn tale of imperial decline. It locates the shifting fortunes of the child emigration movement at the heart of the reconfiguration of identities, political economies, and nationalisms in Britain, Canada, Australia, and Rhodesia.
Within the burgeoning field of the history of childhood this collection attempts to offer something unique. It seeks to contribute to our understanding of the lived experience of children across the British world from the mid-18th to the mid-20th century and considers the construction of childhood within a global network of empire.
‘This book’, writes Jeffrey A. Auerbach in his Introduction to Imperial Boredom, ‘is very much about how people felt’ [his italics]. As such, it takes its place in a growing body of scholarship that explores through individual lives the mind-set that under-pinned the empire project, both individually and on a collective level.