Tag Archive: toys

In this film, Jess Day, of Let Toys Be Toys, discusses the work of the organisation in campaigning around gender and children’s toys. She discusses how the explicit gendering of toys limits the choices children have and their futures.

On 3rd September 2015, we held a workshop about the use of children to represent the future at King’s College London. Here, Helen Roche gives a full report on the event.

By Helen Roche, Research Fellow, University of Cambridge

Does it matter if adults use children for their own ends – especially in politics?

Is the instrumentalisation of children by grownups (past, present and future) always fundamentally exploitative?

Should we care? And if so, how might we help?

These were some of the questions which a workshop held recently at King’s College London, entitled ‘Children’s Burden or Benefit: Using young people to promote ideas of the future’ set out to answer.

Wellcome Library, London

Given that I’m currently writing a history of the most prominent Nazi elite schools, the Napolas, the title of the workshop caught my eye as soon as it was advertised. For the former Napola-pupils with whom I have been working and conducting interviews over the past few years, the pressure and responsibility of living up to the ideals of the National Socialist regime, and of proving oneself worthy of having been selected as a putative future leader of the Third Reich, have often been immense. So, although the researchers running the project – Laura King, Vicky Crewe and Lindsey Dodd – were primarily focusing on the history of childhood in Britain and France, the potential parallels and insights which they could provide for comparison with the German case seemed fascinating, even just from a quick look at their project website.

Part of an AHRC-funded project supported by the History & Policy initiative, their research focuses on children as ‘agents of future promise’ in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain and France. Building on this foundation, the workshop aimed to explore the ways in which children are often forced to bear the burden of adults’ expectations, particularly when they are used collectively to promote visions of a brighter political or social future.

The idea of a “workshop” might conjure up visions of the usual smattering of academic papers with a predominantly historical focus – just another word, in fact, for a miniature one-day conference. Instead, those attending were presented with a veritable smorgasbord of insights, not only from the historians involved in the project, but also from representatives of children’s charities (War ChildPlan International) and campaign groups (Let Toys be Toys). The day was brilliantly structured so as to allow plenty of time for discussion, which so often gets short-changed or hijacked at academic conferences – so, participants were encouraged to debate and reflect upon the key questions raised by the presentations, not only after each speaker had given their paper, but also in small groups throughout the day.

The day began with a brief introduction by Laura King, the ‘Agents of Future Promise’ project’s principal investigator. She established a theoretical framework for thinking about the various presentations which we were going to hear, touching on contemporary debates which represent childhood as a social construction whose definition is constantly changing.

I for Image

From the Abécédaire du Maréchal Pétain (Bureau de documentation du Chef d’Etat, 1943), author’s collection

Historically – or even in the present day – there often exists a tension between defining children wholly according to their current, often highly dependent, ‘child’ status (their ‘being’) – or defining them according to expectations of what they may achieve as future adults (their ‘becoming’). And yet, if we only see children in terms of what they may one day become, do we too easily lose sight of them as actors in the present? And if some children, such as the offspring of asylum-seekers, are assumed to be less good ‘investments’ for the future than others, what detrimental impact may that assumption have on policy in the present?

We were then treated to Laura’s own paper, entitled ‘How were children mobilised to represent the future in World War II Britain?’ Using a variety of sources, including newspapers, documentary films, parliamentary reports and election materials, Laura’s research showed that anxieties about children’s health and safety, in the context of rationing and the wartime evacuation programme, meant that children were more actively invoked in British politics during the Second World War than ever before. These were, after all, the ‘citizens of the future’, and as such, needed to be protected and fostered, both mentally and physically. This rhetoric of ‘investment’ in the nation’s children in order to secure Britain’s future was seized upon by an amazingly diverse range of politicians and organisations – from Labour MPs to Churchill himself; from children’s charities such as the NSPCC to margarine manufacturers, or even the Norwich Union insurance company – whose advertising slogans during this period included ‘The leaders of tomorrow are amongst the children of today!’ Whether in terms of advertising, fundraising, or political grandstanding, such visions of childhood provided a cogent economic rationale for spending on children, in a way which seemed to transcend the usual political or social boundaries.

We then moved on to Lindsey Dodd‘s paper, ‘How did the Vichy Government in World War II France involve children in the pursuit of its goals?’ Drawing mainly on material from the French National Archives, Lindsey’s research examines the ways in which the Pétainist regime not only instrumentalised children, but allowed them to become political agents in their own right. Whereas children are often defined in terms of lack, incompetence, irrationality, and dependence – in short, as non-adults, or as projects rather than people – she argued that Vichy France in some sense empowered not only women, but children too, allowing them to participate in, and even influence, the life of the polity (even if, in terms of the Pétainist battle for births, ‘having children’ was still ultimately prioritised over ‘being children’).

Just as in wartime Britain, children were portrayed as symbols of ‘restoration’ and ‘the rebirth of hope’. However, in propaganda terms, the Vichy regime saw children as miniature ‘Trojan horses’ who could pass Pétainist values on to their families, reeducating those adults who were still tainted by their decadent prewar past, and setting them a good example. Children were encouraged to earn money to send to the Vichy national charity, or to send Marshal Pétain Christmas surprises, such as a drawing of the part of France which they loved most, in order to ‘bring a smile to his face’ (the government received over two million of these!). More questionably, they were also invited to denounce or ostracise any of their peers who refused to cooperate with the regime’s ‘Loyalty Leagues’, which had been founded to abolish cheating and oppositional behaviour in schools. Every child who wrote a letter to Pétain received a reply, which sometimes led to long-standing correspondence, and which generally contributed to children’s sense of responsibility and loyalty to the regime, as well as their engagement with its policies. These, then, Lindsey argues, were truly child citizens, who sought to fulfil the regime’s confidence in their social influence, in as far as this was possible – even if, ultimately, they could only offer Pétain ‘some of my green beans which I’ve saved’, or a drawing of a squirrel.

In the second session, two practitioners, Matt Ruuska from War Child UK, and Kerry Smith from Plan International, took the floor. Both charities’ representatives focused upon the absolute necessity of children becoming ‘stakeholders’ in their own development (a welcome reversal of the adult-centered investment rhetoric which we had encountered previously?). While Kerry highlighted Plan International’s ‘Because I am a girl…I’ll take it from here’ campaign, which aims to eradicate underage marriage, FGM, and other types of female inequality and persecution, particularly in education, Matt concentrated upon the measures which War Child takes to empower the children whose voices they champion. Above all, the charity believes that children should never be portrayed as helpless victims, and that their stories should under no circumstances be criminalised, sensationalised or trivialised. War Child helps children who have suffered terribly, yet survived, to learn what it means to speak out and articulate their human rights, yet without compromising their need for privacy. In one series of cartoon videos which the charity has created in order to persuade runaway children in Afghanistan (and beyond) that they can turn to War Child for aid, most of the animation had been completed by the charity’s protégés themselves. But the most harrowing promotional video of all – one which had apparently moved hardened charity employees to tears when it was first shown – is ‘Duty of Care’ – a Call of Duty-style videogame simulation, which brings to horrific life the trauma and anguish visited upon children in any warzone. Watch it: I guarantee that it will change your perspective within two-and-a-half minutes.

The third session focused on toys – past and present. Vicky Crewe‘s paper, ‘What do toys tell us about children’s roles in the British Empire in the wake of the Second Boer War (1899-1902)?’, explored how toys and games can be used to influence children’s national identification, encouraging them both to empathise with their country’s war effort in the present, and giving them an appetite for war later in life. Toy soldiers, Boer-War-themed games such as ‘The Relief of Ladysmith’ or ‘The Pretoria Bomb’, and even clockwork armoured trains (advertised in toy catalogues as ‘the novelty of the season!’), all helped to make children more enamoured of the war. Meanwhile, prizes such as knives and pens were offered to children if they sent letters to the troops, or solved war-related puzzles. One nine-year-old Irish boy clearly demonstrated the efficacy of this type of indoctrination when he demanded to be allowed to join up and fight straight away. On the other hand, girls’ magazines such as the Girl’s Own Paper contained far less war-related advertising than their male counterparts – and, when the war was mentioned, the focus was firmly placed upon quintessentially feminine activities such as fundraising and letter-writing – or simply upon stoic endurance whilst waiting for one’s menfolk to return.

That such gendered advertising is not only far from being a thing of the past, but that in recent years it has reached undreamed of heights (or should that be depths?) was amply proved by Jess Day’s presentation on ‘Gender training: What are toys and toy adverts teaching children about what it means to be a boy or girl?’ Jess is part of a grassroots media campaign called Let Toys be Toys, which is gradually gaining ever more momentum. Their raison d’être is quite simple – to persuade toy companies and retailers that there is no need to present their wares in a gender-segregated fashion, with hoardings over the aisles in Toys”R”Us, Boots or Centre Parks, bearing legends such as “Gifts for Boys”, “justboys” and “justgirls”. While any toy that has anything to do with construction, science, locomotion – or even just toy animals – is commonly marketed as “Boys’ Stuff”, girls are left with cosmetics, toiletries, and pink tat – the most egregious example of all three categories combined being a “Hello Kitty Beauty Spa”.

This segregation and “pinkification”, which is now prevalent at all levels of the toy industry, has also made its way into book marketing, and has even gone so far as to infect a certain brand of antenatal scans – half of which bear the legend “Future Athlete” (blue, with rugby ball branding), the other “Future Diva” (you guessed it: pink, with flowers)… Yes, targeted merchandise begins to be directed at children before they have even left the womb.

Depressingly, wordles from the achilleseffect.com website which focused on the toy industry’s gendered marketing language showed that many of the most popular words aimed at girls included “fashion”, “style”, “glam”, “nails”, “perfect”, and so forth, while boys were bombarded with words such as “battle”, “action”, “power”, “attack”, and “beat” (with “friends” hiding away, shamefacedly, in one corner). What could be more calculated to bear out the result of a recent Girl Guiding survey, which found that 87% of girls think that women are judged more on their appearance than their ability? Maybe the truth behind that old Mitchell and Webb skit on gendered advertising is more worrying than we realised…

The negative effect of all this on children who do not fit the industry’s stereotypes should not be underestimated, for all that it bears little comparison with the wartime hardships depicted by the charity representatives. One small girl was almost reduced to collapse after suffering endless teasing at school for her “boyish” clothes and pastimes – and then finding that even the naming of the aisles in her local toyshop deemed her enthusiasm for construction toys to be unnatural. Meanwhile, boys are finding themselves hamstrung by negative stereotypes, particularly about their supposed academic inferiority. A recently-commissioned report on boys’ reading habits found that 18% of boys and 12% of girls think that it is “girly” to read any book at all, and 19% of boys admitted that they would be embarrassed if they thought that a friend had seen them reading. The effect of such stereotyping also has a negative impact on imagined career choices: the medic-themed toys which Jess Day’s own daughter played with, which habitually portrayed men as doctors and women as mere nurses, had a greater hold on her young imagination than did her own lived reality, in which most of the doctors she had ever encountered had been female. Meanwhile, boys are brought up to believe that a career in the caring professions must be a de factoimpossibility. A pitiful list compiled by a class of 9-year-old Canadian boys under the heading “What I don’t like about being a boy” ran as follows:

proxy

Jess stressed that, by “not being able to be a mother”, the boys didn’t mean not being able physically to give birth, but merely not being able to be a hands-on father – the idea that men could be engaged parents was basically unthinkable for them.

As a little girl who utterly despised dolls (favouring teddy-bears, or even teddy-leopards!), who loved playing with model railways, Meccano, and toy swords (as well as fashioning heraldic shields out of Ready Brek boxes), and who plastered her bedroom walls and boarding-school pinboards with posters of steam trains – as opposed to the usual fare of ponies, fluffy animals or Leonardo di Caprio – I couldn’t sympathise more with the valiant work that Jess and the Let Toys be Toys team are doing. The idea that the vitality of any child’s imagination – or even ambition – should be curbed and sapped by the “pinkification” strategies dictated by the collective will of corporate marketing machines is highly distressing – and yet it happens every day, all over the world.

To conclude, then: All too often, seeking to join research and policy at the hip, or bringing practitioners and academics together, can seem rather forced – easily discernible as a piece of “outreach” that has merely been designed to tick the appropriate box on a funding application form, rather than being either a joy or a necessity. However, this workshop proved absolutely that, when done well, such initiatives can have true value and real impact – it provided the best kind of model for how dialogue can and should be fostered between academia and the wider world (perhaps it even encouraged us to erase that very dichotomy from our minds!).

In conclusion, Laura, Lindsey, Vicky, and the History and Policy team should all be congratulated for pulling together a programme which surely has to rank as one of the most enjoyable workshops or conferences I have ever attended. The day was full of unique insights, surprises – and, above all, fruitful opportunities to broaden one’s perspectives beyond the purely historical.

On 3rd September 2015, we held a workshop about the use of children to represent the future at King’s College London. Here, Alice Violett gives her thoughts on the day in a guest post.

By Alice Violett, PhD Candidate, University of Essex

Yesterday I went to the abovementioned workshop, held by History & Policy and the Agents of Future Promise research group.  It was a very interesting and enjoyable day that generated a lot of discussion and things to think about.

The first panel featured Laura King and Lindsey Dodd.  Although I already knew about their ‘children of the future’ work from the conference I went to in Greenwich, I still found new knowledge and things to think about.  Laura’s part of the project is about how children have come to be represented in adverts and suchlike as ‘future adults’ and therefore their mental and physical health are important with that future status in mind.  She mentioned something I hadn’t really thought of before: that after the Voting Acts, all children became future voters as well – and therefore it became even more important to mould their minds while they were young.  Lindsey’s paper was about her research on Vichy France, where children were encouraged to hero-worship and send letters, pictures and donations to the office of Marshal Pétain, as well as influence their parents to support the regime.  I always find it quite disturbing to hear about!  But something I hadn’t thought about before was how these children were being encouraged to do something in the present, rather than being told they had to do certain things when they grew up.

The second panel featured Matt Ruuska from War Child, and Kerry Smith from Plan International UK.  As someone who’s interested in both research into and use of stories, and the charity sector, these papers were extremely engaging.  What really grabbed me is that both charities, as we were told, present children in such a way that they’re not passive, helpless, dependent victims – an unhelpful stereotype.  They have them looking at the camera, telling as much or as little of their stories as they want, and portray them as strong people who just need a bit of support to empower them to have a better future – again, giving the kids something to do in the present rather than having to wait.  Although I’d seen their adverts, I’d never really thought about this, and still associated charity appeals with images of silent, starving, kids covered in flies.  This got many of us thinking about representation – whose story is chosen to represent all the other children’s various stories?  What is appropriate and inappropriate?

The third panel was about gender and toys, with the other member of the research group, Vicky Crewe, talking about the issue in history with regards to the Boer War, and Jess Day, from Let Toys Be Toys, talking about the issue in the present, and what the campaign group has been doing to change things.  Vicky showed how the Boer War was a great opportunity to market war toys and games to boys, not only from a profit point of view but to get them interested in and supporting the war, and to encourage the soldiers of the future.  Although some girls may well have played with their brothers’ toys, and not all boys would have been enthusiastic about these toys, girls were engaged with the war in a different way, through writing lettings to troops and fundraising and being told that women’s role was to nurse or stoically wait at home for the men to return.  While boys were having these war toys marketed to them, girls were targetted with things that trained them for home-making, health and food products, and bikes.  This paper got me thinking about my own work; one of my autobiographers, born in 1918, described himself as not having been a fan of ‘boys’ toys’, only playing with them during fits of desire to conform.  Vicky also pointed out that not all children were exposed to the relentless Boer-isation of toys – children from religious or pro-Boer families (a couple of whom I’ve come across) would not have had the same pastime as their war-mad peers.  Jess’ talk was very interesting, not least because it made me think of gendered toys and clothing in my own lifetime.  It seems to me that in the time since I was growing up, things for girls have become very pink, whereas even before I went through my ‘no skirts or dresses’ phase, the clothes I wore weren’t massively girly and I was happy to wear a male cousin’s hand-me-downs (though I hated a pink shirt I had because it said ‘Little Man’ on the label!).  In the past 10-15 years, as Jess pointed out, things have become unnecessarily gendered – why on earth did someone at Next label a box of zoo animals as ‘for boys’ – and are sending the message to children that men and women do certain jobs, even as women’s career options have become wider than ever.

Something I really liked about this workshop was that time was set aside after a couple of the panels for us to discuss, on our tables, issues that had arisen.  It provided a nice break from listening to papers, and it wasn’t awkward as everyone had plenty to say!  A few things really grabbed me from these sessions.  The first was the idea of ‘the child’ (re: charities picking one story to represent all children they want to help) versus lots of individual children (which is something I’m trying to pick up on in my thesis).  While some academics grapple with the idea of what the archetypal child is, I’m going totally the other way and deliberately looking for differences!  Another thing that intrigued me was the question of whether certain children were being envisioned as ‘future workers’ or ‘future leaders’.  My grammar school certainly focussed on academic over vocational subjects, and projected us as leading companies and countries.  The third thing that gave me food for thought was the idea that by focussing so much on their future, we’re ignoring children’s present.  This struck a chord as it felt like I spent so much of my teenage years waiting to be able to do these great things as an adult, like ‘yes, this prospectus looks great but I’m not going to be applying to university for another two years!’ or ‘that job sounds like a great idea for when I hit the job market in several years’ time’.  Linked to that, what about people who feel let down because their envisioned future never materialised?  What about the children who aren’t part of this vision of the future because they’re poor, disabled, or don’t pass the right exam at the prescribed time?  Seeing children exclusively as future adults can lead some to feel ‘written off’ before they’ve even begun.

Overall, I had a great day, and it’s always nice to catch up with my history of childhood friends – the bunch of us who always go to these things, and always talk on Twitter.  I didn’t even feel the need to ‘escape’ at any point, now I know quite a few people well enough to chat beyond the usual ‘so, what do you do?’ pleasantries.

Thank you Alice for your thoughts on the day, and for letting us repost this piece, which originally appeared on Alice’s own blog

By Vicky Crewe, Project Co-Investigator, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University

Vicky

Why do adults give toys to children? What do we hope to achieve by providing children with playthings and games? On one hand, this seems an easy question to answer. We give toys and games to children to make them happy (or to stop them asking!), to keep them occupied, to develop their imaginations and social skills, to enable them to experiment and discover, and to enhance their coordination and motor skills.

But we should also remember that when we give a child a toy or game (in fact, any object we expect them to play or interact with) we may also be telling them something about what we, and the wider world, expect of them. Campaigns such as Let Toys Be Toys and Pink Stinks have recognised this, challenging the often unspoken gendered assumptions made about what young girls and boys ‘should’ play with and wear.

The existence of (often unconscious) aspirations we have for children based on their gender, as well their class, is part of a much longer trend. In this post and my next, I want to step back from the narrowly-defined focus of my case study (which looks at toys given to children at the turn of the 20th century). Instead, I want to think more generally about what toys and games meant for working-class children throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. In today’s post I want to look at how playthings helped to mould children into future workers, both for the family and the state. Next time, I’ll discuss how playthings transmitted messages about social and political movements to children.

        Don’t you know that the harder you are at work, the happier you are?’

Miss Monflathers to Little Nell, The Old Curiosity Shop (Dickens 1841, Chapter 31)

Collections of archaeological finds from 19th-century domestic sites in the western world frequently include the remains of toys, games and other objects specifically intended for children. Remarkably similar toys have been found at sites such as Five Points in New York (US), The Rocks in Sydney (Australia), and Manor Lodge in Sheffield (UK). These playthings often reflect gender norms of the period and they also helped children to develop the skills they would need for later life.

For example, caring for dolls and serving tea from miniature tea sets trained young girls as future homemakers and mothers. But more than that, the quality of the dolls and tea sets bought for (or by) children taught them about money and the quality of item they could expect to afford based on their family’s income. Some items were better quality, more decorative and expensive, while others were plainer and cheaper. As children grew up, they could apply the knowledge and skills they’d learnt through play into real life, helping around the house and looking after siblings. While these tasks might have been unpaid, they contributed to the family income, as they enabled parents and other older members of the household to carry out paid work, either in the workplace or at home (for instance by taking in lodgers, doing laundry for wealthier households, or carrying out ‘piecework’ for manufacturing). Crucially, the skills that children acquired by playing with these toys were also marketable; they too could earn a living in other people’s houses or their own as they got older, for example in domestic service.

Girl playing with a doll (source)

Boys playing with hoops (source)

Toys intended specifically for boys are sometimes harder to identify in the archaeological record compared to girls’ toys, although we find toy soldiers and guns, and other figurines which may well have been given to boys. While working-class girls are likely to have been more house-bound through their paid and unpaid employment, boys tended to have more freedom, wandering more widely in the streets and countryside surrounding their homes. We often find marbles and counters on 19th-century domestic sites, and it’s possible that boys played games with these outside the home. They would have been able to negotiate social relationships with other youngsters and gain experience of loss and gain, which would stand them in good stead when providing for a family later in life.[1]

What do these playthings and child-related objects tell us about expectations for working-class children in the 19th century? I would argue that these items didn’t just encourage play; they were about preparing children for their lives as economically productive members of the family unit, and society as a whole. This might sound overly cynical and I’m certainly not suggesting that adults, particularly parents and other relatives, gave children playthings purely for economic or cynical reasons. In fact, I would argue that adults were helping children by preparing them for the realities of their future lives. Yes, a child who could work and contribute to the family economy was undoubtedly a useful asset but, given the woeful nature of Victorian welfare, children from poorer homes were also being equipped with the essential skills they would need to work and survive in years to come.

Working-class families were doing a balancing act, juggling opportunities for play, the economic needs of the household, and the future welfare of its younger members. The very existence of child-related objects reveals that families were investing in childhood as a separate phase of life – a phase for play, as well as work and education. In households where exploitative wages often required every able-bodied family member to work, the pragmatic choice was to use play to prepare children early for the often hard and strenuous working life that lay ahead of them.

We can’t escape the fact that these families were living and working in a largely exploitative system, or that work could have a devastating impact on children’s health. But in spite of its constraints and disadvantages, work could also bring opportunities for children. They could challenge and change their work environment by taking part in strikes, for example. They could gain a sense of pride and fulfilment through work, by making a contribution to family finances and embracing their transition to ‘adulthood’. They also got the chance to escape, and experience adventure and independence in the big wide world.

[1] Because this post is about what adults give to children, I am of course ignoring one large category of object here – the varied and sometimes rather random range of objects that children themselves decide to play with and appropriate as toys.

VickyBy Vicky Crewe, Project Co-Investigator, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University

V0038815 A young boy lies in bed with an army of toy soldiers on the
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
images@wellcome.ac.uk
http://wellcomeimages.org
A young boy lies in bed with an army of toy soldiers on the counterpane. Process print after Jessie Wilcox-Smith.
1906 Published: 1906
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Objects made specifically for children, such as toys and games, reveal insights into adults’ expectations and ambitions for children. From the second quarter of the 19th century the ‘cult of domesticity’ became widespread at all levels of society, setting up idealised notions of childhood as a distinct and special phase of life. This paralleled a boom in cheap, mass manufacturing; together, these circumstances encouraged and enabled adults at all social levels to purchase toys, games and other objects especially for youngsters.

On the surface these objects were just playthings, but they also carried cultural messages. Girls were typically expected to care for dolls and host toy tea parties, while boys played with soldiers and were trained as ‘little capitalists’ through games based on loss and accumulation. During the 19th century, children also acted as agents for political and social movements, such as the temperance movement. Children were encouraged to take the temperance pledge at a young age and, in turn, use their innocence and purity to inspire a similar way of life in the adults around them.

The use of toys to train children is seen particularly clearly in the years surrounding the Second African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War) of 1899-1902. The historian Paula Krebs has written of a ‘frenzy of jingoism’ inspired by the war, which had, at least to start with, a huge amount of public support. The transmission of this militaristic enthusiasm to children is seen in what Kenneth Brown has called a ‘toy soldier craze’, which extended right up to the First World War; Brown estimates that some 10 or 11 million toy soldiers were being produced annually in Britain by 1914. These toy soldiers were accompanied by periodicals for child readers which focused on military themes, and movements such as school cadet corps, the Boys’ Brigade and the boy scout movement (the latter established by Baden Powell, a veteran of the South African War). Here we witness the training of children and young people – especially boys – as future defenders of Empire.

In this case study I’ll look at other types of toys produced at this time and explore a wider range of objects. In particular, I’ll consider what types of toys were being given to girls while boys were playing with their soldiers – bearing in mind, of course, that just because a toy is marketed at one gender, that doesn’t mean others don’t play with it. What messages did adults send to girls about their futures? What parts were they expected to play in protecting Britain’s interests as they grew up?

The Anglo-Boer War is also interesting for the Agents of Future Promise project because of the conditions in which many children and women were kept in the British concentration camps in South Africa. The unsanitary and unhealthy conditions of these camps roused much concern among the British public as the war developed. By the end of the war, Paula Krebs tells us, around 28,000 white Boer women and children and 14,000 black African adults and children had died in British prisoner of war camps. Incarcerating children as prisoners of war makes a powerful statement about their perceived political role; this case study will consider whether and how the suffering of ‘enemy’ children was communicated to British children.

Join us on Twitter using the project hashtag #children2015 – we’d love to hear from you.

Read other blog posts about Agents of future Promise.