CHC: Season 2, Ep. 2: The History of Sexuality

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.

[gn_spoiler title=”Audio of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Kim Phillips and John Spurlock” open=”1″ style=”2″]
Part 1 (runtime: 23:34)

Part 2 (runtime: 23:55)


[gn_spoiler title=”Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan” open=”1″ style=”2″]

John Spurlock and Kim Phillips belong to different communities of scholarship and live on opposite sides of the world. Their paths might never have crossed.

Yet, the briefest sketch of their scholarly efforts reveals important similarities and shared questions. John’s doctoral thesis centered on the mid-19-century “free love movement” and later he joined with Cynthia Magistro to produce a study of 20th-century American woman’s self-writing – New and Improved: the Transformation of American Women’s Emotional Culture (NYU Press, 1998). This past year he published Youth and Sexuality in the Twentieth-Century United States (Routledge, 2015). Kim’s doctoral thesis was published as Medieval Maidens: Young women and gender in England, 1270-1540 (MUP, 2003). She collaborated with Barry Reay to produce Sex before Sexuality: A Premodern History (Polity Press, 2011), and has since written or edited a number of books on the ways women, Asians, and others were positioned in medieval writing.

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John and Kim study worlds separated by our discipline’s well-policed boundary between modernity and the middle ages, but they share an interest in marriage, sex, youth, and women’s life course. Moreover, when asked about their own intellectual journeys, they respond with familiar words. John wanted to test “the larger narratives of continuity and change,” fashioned through important academic works (Smith-Rosenberg’s “The Female World of Love and Ritual” 1975) and to challenge popular beliefs (e.g. the idea that the sexual revolution began in the 1960s). Likewise, Kim emphasized the larger significance of a history of difference, diversity, and change. When historians examine how cultures form “rules around sexuality (and gender),” and show that these rules are historically contingent, people gain the remit to rethink dominant categories or assumptions. John concurred: covering historical trivia should be secondary to helping students learn to “think historically and (develop) the tools to really follow through…”

I called upon John and Kim precisely because I wanted to talk about foundational ideas within the discipline as they are confronted by those writing the history of youth and sexuality in significantly different periods of time. We began by discussing the reasons for and challenges of pursuing histories of states of being that are widely considered essential features of the human subject – like sexuality. Kim emphasized the importance of trying to read evidence on its own terms. For example, she finds little reason to invoke the concept of “sexual identity” when we read medieval documents. John added that historians would benefit from the way Sex Before Sexuality clearly and convincingly showed that contemporary distinctions, such as the one between heterosexuality and homosexuality, can not be sensibly used to interpret writing prior to modernity. In fact, his research suggests that a careless use of this dualism would cause us to misread middle-class 19th-century Americans. As Phillips and Reay put it, “… one of the great problems with the history of heterosexuality is that we all think we know what it is.” But, what if the very “ordering of desires” is in-and-of-itself historical? (pg. 42)

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We shared thoughts on the discontinuities in the history of sexuality at length, and delved into differences between modern and medieval source materials. I asked them how they confronted the popular narrative of sexual liberation. Kim responded by concisely explaining why the middle ages can not be adequately cast as an age of repression. She reminds us that cultures and people in the deep past were complicated too. John associated sexual liberation with a “Whig” history of linear progress. His Youth and Sexuality challenges this way of understanding change and the standard assumption that the 1960s was a point of origin or a turning-point for youth sexual liberation. For him, the entire idea that sexual experience and activity is a precondition for being an “integrated” person has become an ontological trap.

It is no coincidence that scholars interested in thinking about change over time, and questioning universal claims about who we have been, are, and might be, would be drawn to historicize things typically considered most essential – sex, love, and the life-course. It seems to me that this propensity applies a number of historical fields that have flowered over the past several decades – including the history of childhood. I hope you enjoy this conversation with John Spurlock and Kim Phillips as much as I did. Take care.

Select Publications by Kim Phillips:
Kim M. Phillips, “Gender and Sexuality” in Routledge History of Medieval Christianity, c.1050-c.1530 edited by R. N. Swanson (London and New York: Routledge, 2015): 309-321. URL:

Kim M. Phillips, Before Orientalism: Asian Peoples and Cultures in European Travel Writing, 1245-1510. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.

Kim M. Phillips, ed. A Cultural History of Women in the Middle Ages. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Kim M. Phillips and Barry Reay, Sex Before Sexuality: A Premodern History. Cambridge: Polity, 2011. URL:

Kim M. Phillips, Medieval Maidens: Young Women and Gender in England, 1270-1540. Manchester ; New York: Manchester University Press, 2003.

Select Publications by John Spurlock:

John C. Spurlock, Youth and Sexuality in the Twentieth Century United States. New York: Routledge, 2015.

John C. Spurlock, “AIDS.” Encyclopedia of Military Science. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2012.

John C. Spurlock, “Peyton Place and the boundaries of sexual desire in 1950s U.S.A.” in On the Borders of Convention edited by Aleksandra Nikcevic and Marija Knezevic (Niksic: Faculty of Philosophy, 2010): 183-190.

John C. Spurlock and Cynthia A. Magistro, New and Improved: The Transformation of American Women’s Emotional Culture. New York: New York University Press, 1998.

John C. Spurlock, Free Love: Marriage and Middle-Class Radicalism in America, 1825-1860. New York: New York University Press, 1988.

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Black Women and Girls’ Lives Matter

Hiphop Literacies: Black Women and Girls’ Lives Matter
The Ohio State University
Frank B. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center, Main Campus
March 30-31, 2016

Call For Papers/Proposals/Performers:

The purpose of the Hiphop Literacies conference is to bring together scholars, educators, activists, students, artists, and community members to dialogue on pressing social problems.  This year our working conference theme is Black Women and Girls’ Lives Matter.  Participants of the Hiphop Literacies Conference join a community of those concerned with African American/Black, Brown and urban literacies, who are interested in challenging the sociopolitical arrangement of the relations between institutions, languages, identities, and power through engagement with local narratives of inequality and lived experience in order to critique a global system of oppression. Literacies scholars who foreground the lives of Hiphop generation youth see Hiphop as providing a framework to ground work in classrooms and communities in democratic ideals.

This movement converges with critical education/literacies and the current BlackLivesMatter modern civil rights movement “created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was post-humously placed on trial for his own murder.” ( BlackLivesMatter converges with other efforts to address the legacies of slavery that still oppress Black people in the United States of America: state-sanctioned killing of Black people, state-sanctioned poverty, hatred and oppression of queer people, the prison industrial complex, school-to-prison-pipeline, ineffective schooling and more.  This year’s conference illuminates issues in the struggle to engender the fight for racial justice, so that the needs of girls and women are fully addressed as we continue the fight to dismantle institutional racism and promote healing for collective empowerment of Black and Brown communities. 

Full details available in the downloadable PDF. Abstracts due December 1, 2015.

Guest Post: Jennine Hurl-Eamon on the Army’s Continuing Appeal to Marginalized Youth

Jennine Hurl-Eamon is an Associate Professor of History at Trent University in Canada. She is the author of articles in scholarly periodicals such as Journal of British Studies, Labour History, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Journal of Social History, and Journal of Family History, as well as chapters in edited collections. She has also written three books: Gender and Petty Violence in London, 1680-1720 (2005); Women’s Roles in Eighteenth-Century Europe (2010); and Marriage and the British Army in the Long Eighteenth Century: The Girl I Left Behind Me (2014).

From the “Spirit-Stirring Drum” to Camouflage: The Army’s Continuing Appeal to Marginalized Youth

Although the British army of today might look considerably different than the redcoats of the eighteenth century, there are some striking similarities.

In my article “Youth in the Devil’s Service, Manhood in the King’s: Reaching Adulthood in the Eighteenth-Century British Army,” I argue that enlistment actually served as an appealing option to some eighteenth-century youth. The article focuses on the ways in which the army was able to galvanize certain wayward youth into models of adult masculinity. Where in the article I stressed youth’s desire to enter the army, here I want to explore things from the other direction: the army’s ongoing efforts to attract youth.

Then and now, the army presents a target audience of young people with three enticing prospects: a sense of belonging to those who feel isolated; the prospect of social mobility to those who currently feel destined to eternal poverty; and the promise of adventure and higher purpose in lives that seem otherwise doomed to banality. This appeal is not accidental and is the result of concerted effort on the part of the military to pursue marginalized youth.

In my article, I tell the stories of eighteenth-century orphaned boys for whom the army represented a surrogate family, but the army’s attempts to lure orphaned boys into its ranks are even more visible in the Royal Military Asylum scheme. In a speech to parliament in 1800, the Secretary at War proposed that a building be erected at Chelsea to house soldiers’ orphans. The boys among these orphans could then enter military training at the age of twelve and formally enlist by fourteen. Though he stressed that they would have the freedom to choose another trade, it is clear that the Secretary expected these orphans to become soldiers.[1]

Lonely and isolated children remain the key recipients of recruiters’ attention today. According to a recruiting sergeant in 2007, “there’s a lot of kids come in because their home life is a mess. . . .They want the army to give them a bit of discipline and a bit of support because their home life doesn’t offer that.”[2] The government recently launched the “Ethos” programme, which sends instructors—“over 70%” of whom “have an ex-Forces background”—into primary schools to help instill service-inspired values into their students. A 2013 promotional brochure stated the Department of Education’s belief “that pupils in the most challenging of circumstances could benefit the most from this.”

The distinctive pageantry of military life has also long been vital in enticing youth into its ranks. One young man wrote of “the roll of the spirit-stirring drum, [and] the glittering file of bayonets” in enticing him to join the 43rd Light Infantry Regiment in 1804.[3] The army knew this and geared its efforts accordingly, ensuring that recruiting parties came through town with rousing martial music. While these efforts are unlikely to have been aimed solely at youth, they clearly made a strong impression on children. The fact that fifers and drummers were children only added to the appeal of martial pageantry for its youngest audience.

The modern British army has Camouflage, a “youth information scheme” initiated in 2000 and designed to encourage kids from age 13 and up to see the fun of life in the military. Camouflage members can watch endless videos of uniformed personnel in action, have exclusive access to military computer games on the website, and are encouraged to develop a relationship with their local recruiting officer, who sends them Christmas cards.[4] “Join us and you’ll discover a group of people who take care of each other, on duty and off,” the army recruitment site proudly proclaims, promising that “you don’t just get brilliant training and support, you get somewhere to call home.”

Poorer teens are also enticed by the possibility of a decent wage and the chance to build a better future. The same was true of the eighteenth century. The army could present itself as a welcome contrast to the unwaged apprenticeships available to most boys at the time. A popular play satirized recruiters’ promises that good soldiers would eventually rise to “have ten shillings a day and two servants.”[5]In a 2012 article, Labour politicians argued that giving poorer youth “opportunities to learn from the ethos of the Forces could help tackle disadvantage and promote social mobility.”[6] A teen brought to the Fulwood Barracks with her school in 2007 reportedly said “They told us about the pay, and it’s way better than all my cousins are getting.”[7]

The army promises glory as well as gold. When the Duke of York reviewed the 56th regiment in 1796, he and his officers expressed their hopes that the men “would shortly add fresh laurels to those already gained” by the regiment. A man who had enlisted at age fifteen recalled how “elated with joy” these words made him. “Every heart…beat high to be led on to share in those glorious achievements,” he remembered. [8] Readers of the “Badge of Honour” article on the Camouflage site today are treated to an image of the Queen’s Royal Lancers’ cap badge, which reads “For Glory,” and told that soldiers’ regiment “makes them feel they’re a member of something special and gives them a sense of belonging.” Clicking on the prominent icon of the Union Jack with the words “Army: Be the Best” takes the viewer instantly to a site which introduces the Army as “Securing Britain in an uncertain world.”

The similarities in army youth recruitment strategies are especially noteworthy in light of the apparent differences in state policies toward children since the Napoleonic era. The intervening centuries have seen the advent of the Welfare State, and dramatic rises in the accessibility of education and child-protection legislation. The fact that the British army remains prominent in schemes to deal with poor, lonely, at-risk youth in the twenty-first century raises important questions about how much child welfare policies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have really changed the experiences and opportunities of marginalized youth.

[1] The Parliamentary register; or, history of the proceedings and debates of the House of Commons, vol. 12 (1800) 247-8.
[2] Quoted in Stephen Armstrong, “Britain’s child army,” New Statesman, 5 February 2007.
[3] Anon., Memoirs of A Sergeant Late in the Forty-Third Light Infantry Regiment… (London, John Mason, 1835; reprinted Cambridge: K. Trotman, 1998), 13.
[4] Armstrong, “Britain’s child army.”
[5] George Farquhar, The Recruiting Officer. A comedy… (London: Printed for Bernard Lintott [etc.], 1706), Act IV, Scene ii.
[6] Stephen Twigg and Jim Murphy, “Why the military must invade our schools: We should enhance the Armed Forces’ involvement in education,” The Telegraph 9 July 2012, my emphasis.
[7] Quoted in Armstrong, “Britain’s child army.”
[8] William Surtees, Twenty-Five Years in the Rifle Brigade (London: T. Cadell, 1833), 5.

New Book Series: Children, Youth, and War

James Marten and the University of Georgia Press announce a new books series, “Children, Youth, and War.”  The series aims to broaden understanding of the experiences and points of view of children and youth during wartime as actors, victims and observers, as well as the effects of armed conflict on the nations, communities, and families in which those young people live. It will also provide historic contexts for such urgent contemporary topics as war refugees, under-age soldiers, and the politicization of childhood, among many others.

More details can be found in the official release at:  Jim will be available to talk to prospective authors at the Society for the History of Childhood and Youth conference in Vancouver.

CFP: Youth Circulations

Youth Circulations ( is an online exhibit that traces the real and imagined circulations of global youth. As a collection of photographic representations, Youth Circulations illuminates a critical disconnect between the nuanced, transnational lives of the young migrants and the active reduction of these lives into abbreviated tropes–the vulnerable victim<>, the delinquent<>, and so on–in mainstream news sources and policy reports.

Youth Circulations invites scholars and artists to submit work that considers these primary circulations:

  1. Youth themselves circulate. Through transnational movement and global technologies, young people circulate between nations, communities, and virtual spaces.
  2. Global youth are agents of circulation. As transnational actors, young migrants shape and contribute to global flows of people, capital, ideas, and values.
  3. Ideas circulate about global youth. Put forth in the media, in policy reports, and by advocacy and opposition efforts, representations of young migrants are power-filled and consequential, both in and beyond communities of origin and destination.

Submission format and length is flexible. We invite proposals for an individual blog post or photo essay; a brief analysis of a photo, series of photos, or a gallery on the site; a written or photographic  “conversation” between two or more individuals; or any other work that considers, critiques, or creatively counters so many circulating images of global youth.

With a wide, interdisciplinary readership, Youth Circulations offers artists, scholars, and practitioners a dynamic space to present and interact with ideas about age, mobility, and representation. To contribute, please email

CFChapter: Indigenous Youth In The “British World”

The co-editors of “Children, Childhood and Youth in the British World: Historical Perspectives” – under contract with Palgrave Macmillan for publication in 2015 – seek an additional chapter for the volume. We are looking for an expert contribution of up to 6,500 words on the theme of indigenous youth within the historical setting (and conceptualization) of the “British World,” to sit alongside 15 other chapters already commissioned. The proposed chapter can address any non-Australian part of the British World, such as southeast Asia, Africa, Canada or the Caribbean.

There is a tight deadline for this submission, and details concerning this and other aspects of the publication can be discussed by emailing the editors at the following addresses:;

We will be seeking an abstract of c. 400 words and a CV from prospective contributors; please submit these by 31 July to both addresses detailed above. All candidates will be notified of the outcome in early August.

New Book: Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870-1914

From SHCY member Simon Sleight (King’s College London): Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870-1914. Ashgate Studies in Childhood, 2013.

From the publisher:
Baby booms have a long history. In 1870, colonial Melbourne was “perspiring juvenile humanity” with an astonishing 42 per cent of the city’s inhabitants aged 14 and under—a demographic anomaly resulting from the gold rushes of the 1850s. Within this context, Simon Sleight enters the heated debate concerning the future prospects of “Young Australia” and the place of the colonial child within the incipient Australian nation. Looking beyond those institutional sites so often assessed by historians of childhood, he ranges across the outdoor city to chart the relationship between a discourse about youth, youthful experience and the shaping of new urban spaces. Play, street work, consumerism, courtship, gang-related activities and public parades are examined using a plethora of historical sources to reveal a hitherto hidden layer of city life. Capturing the voices of young people as well as those of their parents, Sleight alerts us to the ways in which young people shaped the emergent metropolis by appropriating space and attempting to impress upon the city their own desires. Here a dynamic youth culture flourished well before the discovery of the “teenager” in the mid-twentieth century; here young people and the city grew up together.

“‘Marvellous Melbourne’, a precocious new world city of the late nineteenth century, is the site for this rich and acute study of how young people carved out their own spaces in the urban outdoors. Simon Sleight draws on a remarkable range of sources to illuminate the subversive perspectives of Melbourne’s youth. The book contributes to the burgeoning international scholarship on young people’s historical experiences, and is recommended reading for historians, geographers and sociologists alike.”—Stuart Macintyre, University of Melbourne, Australia

For more information, see the Ashgate website:

Job: Research Position at University of Manchester

University of Manchester, Humanities Research Associate
Institution Type: College / University
Location: United Kingdom
Position: Research Professional
Closing date: 4 June 2013
Reference: HUM-02695
Faculty / organisational unit: Humanities
School / Directorate: Arts, Languages and Cultures
Division: History
Salary: 29,541-36,298
Employment type: Fixed term (start date 1st August 2013 for a period of 24 months)
Hours per week: 1 FTE
Location: Oxford Road, Manchester

This post is attached to the AHRC-funded research project, coordinated at The University of Manchester by Dr Peter Cave and Dr Aaron Moore.
This project investigates the experience of childhood, education, and youth in Japan between 1925 and 1945. It will record the memories of about 100 people who lived through this momentous period as children and adolescents, as well as examining surviving diaries of juveniles and other contemporary documents. These oral history and documentary records will be used to build up a picture of juvenile life and education in the period as experienced and remembered. The project examines: social and personal relationships of juveniles; the aims, content, and style of learning in schools; the development of consciousness (especially national consciousness) in juveniles; and the relationship of historical memory and consciousness to ideology and historical discourses.

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CFP: Interpretations of Consumption and Youth Culture

Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures invites essay submissions for a special issue addressing the many interpretations of consumption and their meanings in relation to youth texts and culture(s). We welcome essays that consider registers of race, class, gender, and disability. Essays should be between 6,000 and 9,000 words in length and prepared for blind peer-review.

Consumption is a vehicle through which we come to understand proprietary relationships with people, places, bodies, and identities. If food is the primary signifier when we think of consumption, how might we read metaphoric consumption (of capital, culture, and place, for instance) in light of notions of necessity and survival?

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Job: Children and Youth and Their Physical Bodies

Youth and Children’s Studies at the Brantford Campus of Wilfrid Laurier University invites applications for a tenure-track/tenured position at the Assistant or Associate Professor level beginning July 1, 2013, subject to budgetary approval. The applicant’s research expertise and teaching abilities should centre on the performance and experiences of children and youth and their physical bodies. Preference will be given to applicants who conduct quantitative or qualitative research with young people, and whose research focuses on disability, health, play, or body image. A PhD in a related social sciences discipline (e.g., sociology, psychology, public health, kinesiology, etc.), is required.

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SHCY Biennial Article Award

Call for Nominations: Best Journal Article on the History of Children and Youth

Nominations are accepted from journals, editors, and self-nominations by authors. All are eligible for the award, except for current members of the prizes award committees and current members of the SHCY executive committee and officers.
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Grace Abbott Best Book Award

Call for Nominations: Best Book on the History of Children and Youth
Grace Abbott Best Book Award Published in Calendar Years 2011 or 2012

The Society for the History of Children and Youth (SHCY) is pleased to call for nominations for the best book published in English on the history of children, childhood, or youth (broadly construed) published in calendar years 2011 or 2012.
The award of a plaque and a check for $500 US will be presented at the 2013 SHCY Biennial Conference (June 25-27) at Nottingham University, United Kingdom.

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Young People’s Materials and Culture

Call for Papers: Journal of Graduate Research in Young People’s Materials and Culture (JGR)

Based at the University of British Columbia the Journal of Graduate Research in Young People’s Materials and Culture (JGR) is a peer-reviewed open-access e-journal publishing graduate student research in the areas of children’s and young adult literature, childhood studies, and cultural studies related to children and young people.
We are currently selecting manuscripts for our winter 2013 issue. Papers on any children’s or young adult genres are welcome as are papers that discuss other children’s materials such as film, virtual texts, or graphic novels.

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Phenomenology of Youth Cultures and Globalization

Call for Chapters: Phenomenology of Youth Cultures and Globalization: Lifeworlds and Surplus Meanings in Changing Times
Edited by Stuart Poyntz and Jacqueline Kennelly

We are seeking chapter contributions to this edited collection, to be published by Routledge in their Studies in Social and Political Thought series ( To indicate your interest in the collection, please submit an extended abstract of 750 words, describing your chapter’s key aims and how it fits within the edited collection’s goals, as described below. The deadline for extended abstract submissions is Friday, February 15th, 2013. If accepted, full chapters (7000-8000 words) will be due Friday, May 3rd, 2013 and may include limited visual components (photographs, drawings, etc). We would particularly welcome contributions from scholars located in and/or writing about the Global South.

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Symposium on Infancy, Adolescence, and Youth

Call for Papers: Symposium on Infancy, Adolescence, and Youth, Universidad Sergio Arbolleda, Bogota, Columbia, May 2-4, 2013. Proposals due January 31, 2013.

Convocatoria (español) para presentación de propuesta de ponencias al Simposio INFANCIA, ADOLESCENCIA Y JUVENTUD, MIRADAS INTERDISCIPLINARIAS que será desarrollado junto al II ENCUENTRO DE LAS CIENCIAS HUMANAS Y TECNOLÓGICAS PARA LA INTEGRACIÓN EN EL CONOSUR, de 2 a 4 de mayo de 2013, en la ciudad de Bogotá, Colombia, en la Universidad Sergio Arboleda Bogotá – Colombia.

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