All SHCY members receive the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. Published three times a year, it features scholarly research and critical book reviews.

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Jan  09

SHCY Elections – Congratulations to our new officers!

Thank you to the many SHCY members willing to stand for our recent officer elections. Our new officers include:

Vice-President (President Elect): Tamara Myers

Executive Committee: Valeria Manzano, Kristine Moruzi and Emma Alexander

Outreach Committee: Stephanie Olsen (Chair), Nell Musgrove, and Pablo Toro Blanco

A special debt of gratitude to our Nominating Committee who recruited so many excellent candidates for our election: Margot Hillel (Chair), Mary Hatfield, and Orna Naftali.

Congratulations to our all!

Oct  09

CHC: Season 2, Ep 7: The new world should be built not only on children – but with children

Childhood: history & critique (CHC) is a multi-media series of interviews, essays, and reports on happenings in the historical study of childhood hosted by a team of scholars and edited by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan. The series is published and circulated online by the Society for the History of Children and Youth.

Audio of Ning de Coninck-Smith’s Conversation with Mathias Gardet

Commentary by Ning de Coninck-Smith

”I must know more…” was my first reaction, when professor Mathias Gardet from the University of Paris 8 in the meeting room of the General Assembly  of UNESCO began his presentation about the children’s villages, born out of the ruins of WW2. This was a story about children’s self-governance, progressive educational ideas and citizenship across national borders.  The occasion was a conference marking the 70th Anniversary of UNESCO in October 2015. In the reconstruction of the world after WW2 education was thought to play a key role, and to UNESCO children’s villages, republics and communities held high promises for the creation of a future child-centered educational system.  It was confirmed at the General Conference in Mexico in November 1947.

Where did the ideas come from, and how many villages where there? What did children’s self-governance imply and how did it work? And who were the people behind? These were the questions, which triggered my interest.  During a sabbatical month in Paris in April and May 2016 I contacted professor Gardet for an interview, soon to realize that his research into the children’s villages was part of a long academic engagement with the children on the margin and the history of special education in a French historical context. Apart from serving on the editorial committee of La revue de l’historie de l’enfance irrégulière, he is also one of the initiators to the Centre d’exposition: Enfants  en justice, located at a former youth correction home at Savigny-sur-Orge, south east of Paris. Visitors can see the reception building with its 18 cells, where the young inmates where left to their own thoughts for the first three days, as well as an exhibition telling the history of the French youth criminal system. The museum also functions as a documentary and research center. You can read more – and plan a visit – on the website

At a time when so many children again are “war-handicapped”, due to the  loss of parents, or because they have had to flee together with their families from villages, cities and homelands, the stories about the children’s villages unfortunately gain a new actuality.  We might not learn directly from this unknown chapter of the history of childhood and youth of how to handle the current situation. My hope is, that we can learn something as historians – and humans. Something about methodologies, engagement, transdisciplinarity  – and the usefulness of transnational scholarship. For these camps and the ideas behind them ranged from the US to Switzerland, from France to Denmark, and from Italy to Spain, from the East to the West. Their number remains unknown, but alone in France there were 55. (See map and photos in Impetus, vol III, no. 8-9, September-October, 1949 ) The ideas were not interpreted identically, the conditions varied – and the disagreements were many. And even though we know much more about the founding fathers – and mothers, than before – thanks to work of Mathias Gardet, and his colleagues Samuel Boussion (University of Paris 8) and Martine Ruchat (Geneva University), we still know very little about how the camps functioned, who the children were, and how they experienced this part of their lives.

The studies of Gardet, Bouission, and Ruchart show the usefulness of working in the archives of the international organizations, as the UNESCO, where many documents are now online ( – but also with the papers left by groups and advocates of progressive education. Their work challenges a widespread tendency to remain within a national context when writing the history of childhood and youth. But educational ideas travel and were tested, discussed and revised in transnational contexts through a network of people, educators, administrators, experts, philanthropists, diplomats – and in this case also resistance fighters.

To preserve this transnational ambiance, our conversation is partially in English and partially in French.  The resumé of our conversation also draws on articles by Gardet and his colleagues and drafts of chapters to a forthcoming book L’internationale des communautés d’enfants.

After a short introduction, I asked professor Gardet to tell us about the children’s communities– where did the idea come from, how many were there – and how did they work – and until when?

Children’s villages have a long history going back to George Junior Republic in the late-19th-century or to Father Flanagan’s Boys Towns in Omaha, Nebraska in the early 20th-century, but the ideas were also tested by various progressive boarding schools in the UK from Bredales, Abbotsholme to  A.S. Neill Summerhill School. These experiments were central to the New Educational Fellowship movement, which was born as a reaction to the horrors and manslaughters of WW1. It’s goal was the creation of a child-centered school, based on children’s self-governance and rooted in the new, rising science of child psychology. Several of the founding members of NEF were active participants in the creation of the children’s villages, like the Swiss educator Adolphe Ferrière, the Belgian teacher and psychologist Ovide Decroly, the American educational reformer Carleton Washburne or the the Swiss peace activist and Quaker Elisabeth Rotten.

As a consequence of WW2 about 13 million children were considered abandoned.  Parents had been killed in concentration camps or during bombing of cities, families had been separated on the run, or children born out of relations between German or Russian soldiers and local women, had been left to fend for themselves. The founding stone to the movement of children’s villages was placed at the villages of Trogen in Switzerland in January 1946 – soon 200 children were housed in 8 different national houses  – designed by the famous Swiss architect Hans Fischli – together with a surrogate “father” and a “mother”. In the groups the children spoke their own language, but German was the shared language. Understandably, German and Polish children did not get along easily after the war.  The educators tried to persuade them that they (as children) were all victims of the same war.

In 1948, the UNESCO called for an international conference on children’s villages to be held in Trogen. The conference had participants from six countries, and the disagreements among the actors became visible. Children’s villages (or “republics”) could be completely self-governed with their own city council and money.  This happened in Cittavechia in Italy and at the children’s republic at Moulin Vieux in France.  However, we know other children’ s villages were places where children had very few participatory rights.

For my second question, I wanted to know how Gardet came across evidence of these villages? Could he detect the voices of the children? And can we talk about their voices? Or is it rather voices, censured/shaped by the psychiatric experts?

He stumbled over the villages, when reading educational journals from France, Spain and Belgium. The idea of children’s self-governance was either negative described or hailed  in the journal of the New Educational Fellowship movement. The story seemed completely forgotten.

Working in the archives in Switzerland, France and Italy he realized that children’s voices were difficult to hear. In several villages the children produced their own newspapers – inspired by the educational ideas of Celestin Freinet – but they seem more like a “defences of the system” than children’s testimonies. A radio appeal was his best bid on how to get in touch with the former “inhabitants”, who now are very old and many are likely to be dead.  The village in Cittavechia has alumni association, who take care of the cultural heritage.  Yet, detailed children’s files do not exist as they do within youth reformatories.

My third question related to their successfulness and how much did the children decide themselves?

In many ways pragmatism had to reign, the lack of money and the scale of the problem forced children to participate in their own education as well as in the daily routines – in many ways similar to life in children’s homes and orphanages. At the beginning there was no educational project, it was “ a project d’urgence”. Some villages started out as summer camps, where children just stayed on, since they had no other home.  In one case, a castle was turned into a camp for Jewish children who had been hidden by their parents during the war.

The educational frame and the reference to the ideas of NEF came gradually. But as mentioned, the cleavages were fundamental to the movement, even though they all distanced themselves from the historical heritage of children’s homes with their strict discipline, hard work and rough environment. I asked Gardet to reflect on how traumatized these children must have been and what role it played in the discussions. He told me that the educators and psychiatrists took two different stands. One group warned against children’s trauma and also that the responsibility of running a village risked doing more harm than good. The other group found it fascinating and promising that the children had survived in gangs and on the streets with hardly any food nor shelter. In their opinion this energy should be drawn upon for their education and civilization. Others claimed that children’s villages created an artificial environment, and therefore made it difficult for children to grow into adulthood. From these debates rose new understandings and definitions of children’s trauma.

The end came in the early 1950s, when the villages – and UNESCO – were caught up in the cold war, and the contact across the iron curtain stopped, while the Americans and Canadians threatened to cut funding if grants were made to children’s communities in Eastern Europe.  A major crisis arose when around 27,000 Greek children, who the Greek government claimed had been kidnapped by the federation of children’s villages – with the support of UNESCO, were placed in villages in Bulgaria, Romania and Czechoslovakia. There were fewer and fewer war injured to save.  As the years passed, more of the children were victims of poverty after the war, rather than the war itself.

The last part of our conversation turns around Gardet’s role as co-editor of the journal La revue de l’historie de l’enfance irrégulière and his other activities related to the history of special education. He explained that the journal together with conferences was meant to work as a platform for exchanges between scholars in the franco-phone world and an opportunity to develop not a comparative but a transnational and prosographic approach to the field. He finds it fascinating how ideas travelled through the international conferences during the 19th century, and yet the Northern and British countries seem to differ in their attitude to the children on the margins from Southern Europe. To the north, experts advocated family placement, where institutionalization were the preferred solution to the south. There were expert in the south, too, who claimed that institutions were not the best way to introduce children to their life as adults. Instead they advocated placement in a family with a similar social background.

When asked about where this strong academic interest in the history of the prison system among franco-phone scholars could come from, he mentioned the importance of philosophers, sociologists and historians such as Michel Foucault, Michelle Perrot and Jacques Guy Petit.


Samuel Boussion, Mathias Gardet and Martine Ruchat: Bringing Everyone to Trogen. UNESCO and the Promotion of an International Model of Children’s Communities after World War II in Poul Duedahl (ed): A history of UNESCO: Global Actions and Impacts, Palgrave Macmillan 2016

Gardet, Mathias: Le modèle idéalisé des  communautés d’enfants à l’épreuve de la réalité française, 1948-1955.  Published on line from the international congress of AREF (Actualité de la  recherche en education et formation) Geneva, 2010.

Gardet, Mathias (en collaboration avec Martine Ruchat) : “Le Village Pestalozzi, un modèle de communauté d’enfants pour l’Europe. Entre utopie pédagogique et propagande politique, 1944-1954”, in Furrer, Markus, Heiniger, Kevin, Huonker, Thomas et al., Entre assistance et contrainte : le placement des enfants et des jeunes en Suisse 1850-1980, Schwabe, supplément de la Revue suisse d’histoire, 2014, p. 123-138

Gardet, Mathias (en collaboration avec Fabienne Waks) :  Une histoire de la jeunesse en marge, Textuel, Paris, 2015

See also  Nicholas Stargardt : Witnesses of War: Children’s Lives Under the Nazis, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2005

Ning de Conninck-Smith

About Ning de Coninck-Smith

Ning de Coninck-Smith is professor of the history of childhood and education at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. She has most recently co-edited and contributed to a five volume history of the Danish school system [Dansk skolehistorie. Hverdag, vilkår og visioner gennem 500 år]. Together with Marta Gutman she has edited Designing Modern Childhoods. History, Space and the Material Culture of Children (Rutgers University Press, 2008). She is currently working on a project on the shaping of Danish children’s culture within museums, libraries and theatres during the 1960s and 1970s.
photograph by Lars Kruse/AU Kommunikation

Mathias Gardet

About Mathias Gardet

Mathias Gardet is since 2014 professor in educational sciences at the University Paris VIII. As professor of 20th Century social history he is affiliated with CIRCEFT [Centre Intrauniversitaire de Recherche, Culture, Formation et Travail]. He defended his ph.d.- thesis at the University Paris I in 1996. The theme of the thesis was youth organizations in Mexico from 1929-45 and their history with the church and the Mexican state. In 2013 he obtained his « habilitation » [Habilitation à diriger des recherches] with the theme Orphans and young delinquents. Two categories of children, placed outside their home. (1889-1959).

Sep  12

Miriam Turrini Wins Fass-Sandin Prize for Best Article in German or Italian!

It is with great pleasure that the committee for the Fass-Sandin Prize for the best article (German or Italian) on the History of Children and Youth for 2015 announces that the award goes to Miriam Turrini for her wonderful essay “Poco oltre la soglia: racconti autobiografici di aspiranti gesuiti a metà Seicento, Studi storici3/2014, July –Sept., pp. 585-614.  Congratulations Dr. Turrini!

The Prize Committee wrote:
Within a varied field, Turrini’s article stood out for the richness and productivity of the sources used, as well as for the methodological and conceptual issues that her work raises for the study of the history of childhood and youth in early modern Europe.The article is based on a meticulous archival research, whose main focus are the questionnaires compiled between 1636 and 1644 by young aspiring Jesuits admitted to noviciate of S.Andrea, in Rome. Out of the 180 questionnaires available, 82 include the novices’ narratives of their vocation. It is on the sources combining questionnaires and vocational stories that Turrini’s analysis is constructed.
The author presents us with an extraordinary source from a period in which the voices of young people remain elusive and difficult to find. These sources provide information on the background and life experiences of these young people, together with the narration of the discovery of their vocation and subsequent decision to enter the noviciate. Most of the aspiring Jesuits were between 14 and 18 years olds, they came from various Italian and European territories, and from various family backgrounds. Only a minority came from either very rich or very poor family, and many of them were orphans of one or both parents. Young adults rather than children, their testimonies provide precious glimpses into the complicated transition from childhood to adulthood, which in these cases coincided with the equally complicated passage from their “old” secular life to their new life as novices in the Compagnia di Gesù.

While the narratives studied by Turrini follow a recognisable scheme, the sources offer important insights into the individuality and subjectivity of young people engaged in a process of self-analysis and self-representation.

In order to successfully complete the probation period, the aspiring Jesuits had to answer questions relating to their past, and had to present a vision of their future, seen as a project of self-realisation that should coincide with the obtainment of Christian perfection.

Although inevitably informed by the need to satisfy the expectations of their examiners, the sources studied by Turrini show the complicated effort to narrate a radical life project: a project that required young people not only to resist worldly temptations but also to defy parental opposition. Only in a few cases, in fact, we find examples of solicited or even forced conversions, pursued as part of family strategies.

Turrini compare texts written by a majority of younger novices with the texts written by (fewer) older writers, thus highlighting both the specificity of younger people’s voices and experiences and the methodological and theoretical issues brought up by the sources.

The essay by Turrini represented an initial approach to this type of egodocuments, which have since been studied further. The article is bound to promote further historiographical reflections on the categories relevant to the history of youth in Europe.

Many thanks to the Prize Commitee: Patrizia Guarnieri (chair, University of Florence), Stefania Bernini (UNSW Australia), Patrizia Dogliani (University of Bologna), Dirk Schumann (chair, University of Göttingen)

Aug  31

Catherine Jones wins 2016 Grace Abbott Book Prize

The Society for the History of Children and Youth Grace Abbott Book Prize for the best book on the History of Children and Youth published in English in 2015

The 2016 Grace Abbott Book Prize committee has selected Catherine Jones’s Intimate Reconstructions: Children in Postemancipation Virginia (University of Virginia Press) as the best book on the history of children, childhood or youth published in English in 2015. In their citation, the Committee wrote:

“Jones’ study is an outstanding example of what happens when a researcher approaches a familiar historical narrative from a child-centered perspective. Based on meticulous, extensive and creative archival research, and successfully blending traditional social history with novel analytic categories, Intimate Reconstructions reveals not only how children in Virginia were affected by the process of Reconstruction, but also how Reconstruction itself was shaped by concerns and debates about the treatment, training, reformation and protection of children.

Jones convincingly claims that children, both as direct participants and as cultural symbols, were central to postemancipation struggles over the meaning of freedom, victory and defeat; kinship and citizenship, and the interplay of public and private life.

By attending to the diversity of children’s postwar experiences (in the households of formerly enslaved people and former slaveholders, as apprentices or institutionalized orphans, in the new public schools), to whatchildren had in common as a group (age) and what divided them (race, class, and gender), Jones offers a rich and subtle account ofthe social, political and emotional gains and costs of emancipation. Intimate Reconstructions is an original contribution to the histories of Reconstruction and children, but its detailed storytelling, compelling and clear arguments, and important lessons on the interdependence of private and public—of families and the political and economic contexts in which they are embedded—give it a much broader appeal as well.”

Thank you to the members of the Grace Abbott Prize Committee for their service, Adriana Benzaquén (chair, Mount St. Vincent University), Nara Milanich (Barnard College), and Hugh Morrison (University of Otago).

by Mona Gleason, President, Society for the History of Children and Youth

Aug  31

Lydia Murdoch wins Fass-Sandin Prize (English)

The Society for the History of Children and Youth Fass-Sandin Prize for the best article (in English) on the History of Children and Youth published in 2015

It is with great pleasure that the committee for the Fass-Sandin Prize for the best article (in English) on the History of Children and Youth published in 2015 announces that the award goes to Lydia Murdoch for her wonderful essay “Carrying the Pox: The Use of Children and Ideals of Childhood in Early British and Imperial Campaigns Against Smallpox,” Journal of Social History, vol. 48, no. 3 (Spring 2015), pp. 511-535. The Committee wrote:

“In a strong and varied field, Lydia Murdoch’s essay stood out for us not only because of the fascinating story she tells – of the use of children as carriers of smallpox vaccines around the globe in the early nineteenth century – but also as a result of her careful attentiveness to the multiple ways in which the category of childhood was made and remade in intersection with ideas relating to class, race, and gender. What she demonstrates is that shifting conceptualisations of childhood in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries facilitated both the increasing social acceptance, as well as the dissemination, of vaccination. New ideas about childhood innocence were, as Murdoch notes, ‘flexible’. The concept of the pure, innocent child was crucial to popularising and legitimating vaccination particularly among middle- and upper-class parents: vaccination was a sign of their love and care for their children. But, equally, in their innocence, children’s bodies were believed to offer doctors and scientists a tabula rasa on which to test anti-smallpox treatments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, children who were poor, black, and without the protection of their parents were particularly useful for officials and doctors working to make the smallpox vaccine widely available. Murdoch charts the journeys by land and sea of a group of child vectors of the vaccine, whose bodies and work allowed imperial authorities to paint the British Empire as a benevolent parent of people around the globe, but whose treatment and living conditions were certainly well below those afforded to white, middle-class children.

By dint of their innocence – and vulnerability – children were, then, significant to the extension of scientific and medical knowledge, and also to the making and entrenchment of imperial rule. This is an article that asks us to think carefully about how unstable age categories are crucial to the workings of power.”

Thank you to the prize committee Sarah Duff, University of Witwaterand; Daniel Grey, Plymouth University; and Leroy Rowe, University of Southern Maine for their service.

by Mona Gleason (President, Society for the History of Children and Youth)

Jul  25

JHCY CFP: Histories of Children and Childhood in Museum Settings

The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth seeks submissions on the portrayal of the histories of children and of childhood in museum settings.  Individual articles (8000 words), a roundtable (perhaps 20,000 words by five or six different authors), or even a proposal for a special issue would be welcome.  Extensive illustrations would be a possibility.  Queries should be directed to James Marten, editor, JHCY, at  Submission guidelines can be found at

Jul  25

CHC: Season 2, Ep 6: Transnational Youth

Childhood: history & critique (CHC) is a multi-media series of interviews, essays, and reports on happenings in the historical study of childhood hosted by a team of scholars and edited by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan. The series is published and circulated online by the Society for the History of Children and Youth.

Audio of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Rick Jobs

Part 1 of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Rick Jobs

Part 2

Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan

When Rick Jobs first learned about the upheavals in Europe during 1968 as an undergraduate student, he thought, “Wow, look at these … young people articulating their aspirations…”  Youth culture and activism provided a compelling widow on the past for him.  Later, he decided to continue with graduate studies in history while backpacking around Europe.   His parents may have hoped he’d pursue the law, but he had other dreams.  “I’ll get my Ph.D., and it will enable me to come back here.”

He fulfilled those hopes in the years that followed, and they seem to have served as initial seed for his forthcoming book Backpack Ambassadors: How Youth Travel Integrated Europe.   The book explores how the transnational mobility of young people in the second-half of the twentieth-century fostered European integration.  It is not a history of the European Union, as such, but takes a wider view of the cultural integration of Europe after the destruction of the Second World War.  Some of the things we will learn about include transitions in youth hosteling, youth circulation between sites of protest in 1968, state-sponsored programs for youth to travel together, the Franco-German Youth Office, the development of Eurorail passes, and the rise youth back-packing.

In our conversation, Rick highlighted that by the 1970’s one million American youth annually traveled around Europe.  “The more and more that they travel, the dense network of their circularity begins to expand outward.” As they expanded from northwest Europe into Spain, North Africa, and the Eastern Bloc, the ideas, practices, and sensibilities of youth popular culture spread.  He hopes the book will find an audience with both advanced scholarly and undergraduate readers.

cover art for Transnational Youth by Rick JobsWe discussed the concept of transnational youth at-length.  Rick argued the we are missing something “pretty huge” in the history of childhood and youth, if we don’t confront its “profound transnationality.”  I agreed that national histories of childhood had limitations, but I also wondered about the seeming progressive narrative underpinning the work I had read in this area.  In his recent keynote address at the “Horrible Histories Conference” that launched the Children’s History Society, David Pomfret argued that “childhood functions as a space where empires can be collapsed.”  I asked Rick if the opposite wasn’t also true.  Doesn’t the history of imperialism (programs such as Canada’s Indian Residential Schools – CHC S2 Ep5 – to name only one example) demonstrate repeatedly that empires have been erected on the politics of childhood and youth?  I was thinking of a recent article written by Toby Rollo, “Feral Children: settler colonialism, progress, and the figure of the child,” in Settler Colonial Studies (June 2016).  Rick agreed that age categories are full of paradoxes, but he emphasized that the general significance of childhood and youth deserved greater recognition by scholars if we were to sort through these difficulties.  We could, he said, “think about ‘collapsed’ in another way…the totality of imperialism itself can be enfolded within… childhood [and youth].”

Select Works by Richard Ivan Jobs:
Backpack Ambassadors: How Youth Travel Integrated Europe (University of Chicago Press, in press, forthcoming 2017).

Transnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century, co-edited with David M. Pomfret, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

“Youth Movements:  Travel, Protest, and Europe in 1968,” American Historical Review Vol. 114, No. 2 (April 2009):  376-404.

Riding the New Wave: Youth and the Rejuvenation of France After the Second World War (Stanford University, Press, 2007).

Richard Jobs

About Richard Jobs

Richard Ivan Jobs is Professor of History at Pacific University, and served as the Chair of the department there from 2008-2014. He earned is doctorate from Rutgers University in 2002, and since this date has authored or edited three books. He is a cultural historian of modern European youth with an emphasis on France.

Patrick J. Ryan

About Patrick J. Ryan

Dr. Patrick J. Ryan is Program Coordinator of Childhood & Social Institutions at Kings University College at Western University – Canada. He is VP and President-Elect of the Society for the History of Children and Youth, the long-time managing editor of H-Childhood (est. 1998), and the author of scores of publications in the history of childhood and youth, including Master-Servant Childhood: a history of the idea of childhood in Medieval English Culture (Palgrave, 2013).

Jun  17

JHCY Best Article Prize Winner Announced

The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth is happy to announce the winner of the JHCY Best Article Prize for 2015: Magda Fahrni’s “Glimpsing Working-Class Childhood through the Laurier Palace Fire of 1927: The Ordinary, the Tragic, and the Historian’s Gaze.” The article appeared in the special issue on children and spaces of death, Volume 3 (Fall 2015). Pamela Riney-Kehrberg (Iowa State University) chaired the selection committee, which also included Luke Springman (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania) and Bianco Premo (Florida International University).

This article has also been honored by the Canadian Committee on Labour History and the History of Children and Youth Group of the Canadian Historical Association.

Magda Fahrni is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the Université du Québec à Montréal. She is the author of Household Politics: Montreal Families and Postwar Reconstruction (University of Toronto Press, 2005); the co-author of the 3rd edition of Canadian Women: A History (Nelson, 2011); and the co-editor of Epidemic Encounters: Influenza, Society, and Culture in Canada, 1918-20 (University of British Columbia Press, 2012) and of Creating Postwar Canada: Community, Diversity, and Dissent, 1945-75 (University of British Columbia Press, 2008). She is currently working on a monograph on risk and accidents in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Quebec and on a short history of families in Canada.

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