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Family and Childhood

Key Texts

  • Shani D'Cruze, 'The family', in Chrs Williams (ed.), Companion to Nineteenth-century Britain
  • Leonore Davidoff, 'The family', in F. M. L. Thompson (ed.), Cambridge Social History of Britain, vol 2
  • Daniel Bivona, 'The House in the Child and the Dead Mother in the House : Sensational Problems of Victorian "Household" Management'. Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 30 (2008)
  • Hugh Cunningham, ‘Histories of Childhood’ (Review Essay), American Historical Review, 1998
  • Anna Davin, ‘Waif stories in late nineteenth-century England’, History Workshop Journal, 2001
  • Eleanor Gordon and Gwynneth Nair, 'Domestic Fathers and the Victorian Parental Role'. Women's History Review, 15 (2006)
  • Eleanor Gordon and Gwynneth Nair, 'The myth of the Victorian patriarchal family'. History of the Family, 7 (2002)
  • Anne Hardy, ‘Rickets and the rest: child-care, diet and the infectious children’s diseases, 1850-1814’, Social History of Medicine, 1992
  • Peter King, 'The rise of juvenile delinquency in England 1780-1840: changing patterns of perception and prosecution', Past & Present, 1998
  • Peter Kirby, ‘How many children were ‘unemployed’ in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England?’, Past and Present, 2005 with reply by Hugh Cunningham

Seminar Questions

  • Did the Victorians construct the idea of childhood?
  • How important was children’s fiction in representing Victorian children?
  • What were the roles of the Victorian mother and father?
  • How big a problem was juvenile crime and what measures were introduced to deal with it?
  • How healthy were Victorian children?

Further Reading  

Children’s novels

Sara Coleridge, Phantasmion (1837)

Charles Dickens Oliver Twist (1838) and David Copperfield (1849-50).

Robert Browning The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1842)

Edward Lear, A Book of Nonsense (1846)

Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales

Captain (Frederick) Marryat, The Children of the New Forest (1847)

Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (1847)

Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857)

Nathanial Hawthorne's, Wonder Book (1851) and Tanglewood Tales (1853)

Louisa May Alcott's, Little Women (1868)

Anna Sewell Black Beauty (1877)

R.M. Ballantyne: The Young Fur Traders (1856) and The Coral Island (1858)

Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886)

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860)

Charles Kingsley, The Water-Babies (1863)

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871)

Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Tales


J. Burnett (ed.), Destiny Obscure: Autobiographies of Childhood, Education and Family from the 1820s to the 1920s

Karen Chase and Michael Levenson, The spectacle of intimacy : a public life for the Victorian family

H. Cunningham, Children of the Poor: Representations of Childhood since the Seventeenth Century

Andrew Davies, 'Youth, violence, and courtship in late-Victorian Birmingham : The case of James Harper and Emily Pimm'. History of the Family, 11 (2006)

Anna Davin, Growing up Poor: Home, house and street in London

Anna Davin, ‘Imperialism and motherhood’, History Workshop Journal, 1978

Anna Davin, ‘Historical novels for children’, History Workshop Journal, 1976

C. Dyhouse, Girls Growing Up in Late-Victorian and Edwardian England

J. R. Gillis, Youth and History: Tradition and Change in European Age Relations, 1770-Present

J. R. Gillis, ‘The Evolution of Juvenile Delinquency, 1890-1914’, Past and Present (1975)

Eleanor Gordon and Gwyneth Nair, Public lives : women, family and society in Victorian Britain

Deborah Gorham, ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon’ re-examined: child prostitution and the idea of childhood in late-Victorian England’, Victorian Studies, 1978

H. Hendrick, Child Welfare in England, 1872-1989

A Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence: the history and crisis of ideal childhood 

P. Horn, Children’s Work and Welfare, 1780-1890 Peter Hunt (ed.), Children's Literature: An Illustrated History

S. Humphries, Hooligans or Rebels? An Oral History of Working-class Childhood ad Youth, 1889-1939

Pat Jalland, Death in the Victorian family

G. Pearson, Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears

Royston Pike (ed.) Human Documents of the Industrial Revolution in Britain (1966), section on ‘Child Labour’

D. Reeder, ‘Predicaments of City Children: Late-Victorian and Edwardian Perspectives on Education and Urban Society’, in D. Reeder (ed.), Urban Education in the Nineteenth Century

Ellen Ross, Love and Toil: Motherhood in Outcast London.  

J. Springhall, Coming of Age: Adolescence in Britain, 1860-1960

J. Springhall, Youth, Empire and Society: British Youth Movements, 1883-1940

J Springhall, Youth, popular culture and moral panics

Carolyn Steedman, Strange Dislocations. Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority, 1780-1930

John Tosh, A man's place : masculinity and the middle-class home in Victorian England

John Tosh, 'Authority and nurture in middle-class fatherhood : the case of early and mid-Victorian England'. Gender & History, 8 (1996)

J. Walvin, A Child’s World: A Social History of English Childhood, 1800-1914

Victor Watson (ed.), The Cambridge Guide to Children's Books in English

Anthony S. Wohl (ed.), The Victorian family: structure and stresses

Edward Potthast, At the Beach (image from: