Spaces and places of childhood and youth

Department of History, University of Reading, Thursday 24th September, 2015

Keynote speaker: Professor Melanie Tebbutt (Manchester Metropolitan University)




This one-day symposium marks the culmination of the Department’s 2014/15 annual research theme on childhood and youth history. Until recently, children and young people’s history was regarded as essentially irrelevant to larger political, economic and social metanarratives but in the last few years there has been a very encouraging growth of interest in this area, as evident in the recent announcement of the foundation of a UK-based Children’s History Society to be launched in June 2016. This complements the active and successful US-based Society for the History of Children and Youth (SHCY) and the international Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past, each with their own journals and regular conferences. Increasingly, children’s history is being integrated into wider histories and there is a growing recognition that children and young people were historical actors in their own right, leading to challenging re-interpretations of major historical events (for example Jane Humphries’ Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution, 2010).

Much recent work on childhood and youth has approached it from a spatial perspective (e.g. Eva Alarcón García, Gonzalo Aranda Jiménez and Margarita Sánchez Romero, eds, Children, Spaces and Identity, forthcoming; Simon Sleight, Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870–1914, 2013; Melanie Tebbutt, Being Boys: Youth, Leisure and Identity in the Interwar Years, 2012). Historians and historical geographers are beginning to investigate how children and young people use and move through space and are subjected to spatial disciplines and control, but conversely how they are also sometimes able to create or establish their own spaces and places, even if these are often marginal, unstable and exposed to supervisory oversight or intrusion. Children’s spaces and places are typically poorly recorded or even apparently invisible in the archive but historians are developing innovative ways of tracing and interpreting them, for example through the use of legal records, photographs taken for other purposes etc. It may well be that, in recovering the spatiality of childhood and youth as in other aspects of children’s history, the ‘greatest challenge is not so much accessing children’s experiences, but rather overcoming our own doubts about the possibility of doing so’ (Hannah Newton).

Contributions that address these or other issues within the broad theme of childhood and space are invited from historians, historical geographers and others with an interest in childhood, children’s and youth history. Please send a proposed title and brief outline (c.150 words) for a 20-minute paper to Jeremy Burchardt, by Monday 31st August.

Dr Jeremy Burchardt

Department of History

University of Reading

Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AA

0118 378 7735

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