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The History of Childhood

  • About this Course

About this Course


In this course, Professor Hugh Cunningham (University of Kent) explores the historical development of childhood from the early modern period to the present. In the first module, we consider Philippe Ariès’ hugely influential insights regarding the historical construction of childhood since the Middle Ages. In the second, we think about the shift in the early modern period from a negative perception of childhood linked to Protestant theology to a positive, secular vision. The third module discusses the impact of industrialisation and urbanisation on childhood in the nineteenth century. In the fourth and fifth modules, we ask, firstly, whether the twentieth century should be considered the “century of the child”, and secondly whether childhood is under threat.


Professor Hugh Cunningham is Emeritus Professor of Social History at the University of Kent. He specialises in the history of childhood, youth and charity in modern Britain. His recent publications include The Reputation of Philanthropy Since 1750 (2020), Time, Work and Leisure: Life Changes in England Since 1700 (2014), and The Invention of Childhood (2006).