The Children's War: British children's experience of the Great War

Kennedy, Rosalind Joan Sarah. 2006. The Children's War: British children's experience of the Great War. Post-Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The First World War placed children at the heart of the debate about Britain's
future. In the face of the enormous destruction of human life and the sacrifice of
the economy to the needs of war, children held the promise of a brighter future.
Britain was looking not just to rebuild what it had lost but to rebuild a Britain
better than it had been before. Children were seen as the key to that process of
To prepare them for the task children needed to understand the sacrifices that had
been made for them and the importance of accepting their role as responsible
citizens of the future. The ways war was represented to children through the
school curriculum, their participation in school/youth organisations, and the
production of toys and games highlight the way adults felt this could be
achieved. Teachers and youth group leaders harnessed children's genuine
interest in the war to teach them lessons at school and give them practical
examples of the desired characteristics of obedience and self-sacrifice that would
help Britain win the war and maintain its Empire in the future.
Children were surrounded by the war everyday, at home, at school and in their
youth groups. They read about it in books, magazines and newspapers, studied it
at school and re-enactedi t in their private games.T he separationf.r om fathers
and brothers, when they volunteered or were conscripted to fight, meant that the
wider international conflict took on a personal significance, endangering the men
these children loved. Children's experience explored through memory, personal
documents, institutional experience and play, shows the diversity of children's
response to war and the significance of war in the context of their lives. Children
struggled to make sense of the war by combining what they learnt from adults
with. what they came to understand about it for themselves.

Item Type:

Thesis (Post-Doctoral)

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Date Deposited:

02 Dec 2014 13:10

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 09:05


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