Children and War: A Historical Anthology

Children and War: A Historical Anthology

Children and War: A Historical Anthology

Children and War: A Historical Anthology


"This anthology is breathtaking in its geographic and temporal sweep." Canadian Journal of History

The American media has recently "discovered" children's experiences in present-day wars. A week-long series on the plight of child soldiers in Africa and Latin America was published in Newsday and newspapers have decried the U. S. government's reluctance to sign a United Nations treaty outlawing the use of under-age soldiers. These and numerous other stories and programs have shown that the number of children impacted by war as victims, casualties, and participants has mounted drastically during the last few decades.

Although the scale on which children are affected by war may be greater today than at any time since the world wars of the twentieth century, children have been a part of conflict since the beginning of warfare. Children and War shows that boys and girls have routinely contributed to home front war efforts, armies have accepted under-aged soldiers for centuries, and war-time experiences have always affected the ways in which grown-up children of war perceive themselves and their societies.

The essays in this collection range from explorations of childhood during the American Revolution and of the writings of free black children during the Civil War to children's home front war efforts during World War II, representations of war and defeat in Japanese children's magazines, and growing up in war-torn Liberia. Children and War provides a historical context for two centuries of children's multi-faceted involvement with war.


The past century has told us much about the inner life of children—their desires and worries, their attachments and aspirations for the future. By now we understand the home life of children, as well as their struggles within the family and on the streets and playing grounds of the neighborhoods which they have come to know as their very own. We also observe schoolchildren with increasing sensitivity and assurance, hence the substantial number of clinical workers who help teachers and parents to view the youngsters in their charge with a kind of confident sophistication and subtlety denied earlier generations of mothers and fathers, as well as classroom instructors. Moreover, as the child psychoanalyst, Erik Erikson, so wisely reminded us, we can learn about the world through the eyes and ears of children: What they notice and remember hearing gives us a good idea of what is out there, waiting for them to attend. Note the title of Erikson's first and seminal book, Childhood and Society—its author is at pains to insist that even as the young are shaped by the world around them, that holds as well for their grown-up guardians, at home or in the classroom. “So often,” Erikson once remarked to a group of his colleagues,

we want to explain a child's behavior by looking at the “social rules of the
game,” the values and norms that affect a boy, a girl, who grows up in a coun
try, in a class or race or religion that is part of that country's life. But there is
another side of that coin: children require our care, our constant concern,
and so their presence among us exerts a strong influence upon us, to the point
we become the beneficiaries of their requirements (and once in a while, I sup
pose it can be said, the victims—since some children can drive some of us, as
we all know to say, “to distraction.”

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