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What Happened to Childhood?

Compare the Victorian view of childhood with the way children are presented today.

News about children and childhood in Britain is almost uniformly negative. Children, we're told, are unhappy, self-harming, obese, hyperactive and stare stony-eyed at screens all day long. In contrast, the Victorians presented a largely positive and happy view of childhood, which was seen as the best time of a person’s life. The 19th-century view was that life was getting better for children - they were rescued from work in mills and mines, the NSPCC provided protection against cruelty and neglect, playgrounds were opened and children were ‘healthy and happy’. What lessons can we learn from the powerful hold of these two narratives? Told by adults, how far are they stories about adulthood? Does the children’s classic novel Peter Pan provide any clues?

An evening talk by Professor Hugh Cunningham, Emeritus Professor of Social History, University of Kent. He is the author of books including: The Children of the Poor: Representations of Childhood since the Seventeenth Century; Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500; The Invention of Childhood and Grace Darling: Victorian Heroine.


Professor Hugh Cunningham | talks


Date and Time:

9 June 2016 at 6:30 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



Florence Nightingale Museum
Gassiot House
2 Lambeth Palace Road
020 7620 0374

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Tickets are £8 (Members are free)

Available from:

stephanie@florence-nightingale.co.uk or 020 7188 4400

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