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The Care for Children in Early Modern English Society

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The Care for Children in Early Modern English Society

Early modern English child rearing practices like wet-nursing,

swaddling, prescriptive literature and apparent lack of parental

emotional attachment has caused much discussion, regarding the care of

children. Philippe Aries and Lawrence Stone used these ideas, amongst

others, to suggest that parents did not care for their children.

Their ideas have been challenged by a number of historians who argue

that, through research of first hand accounts in diaries and official

records, it is clear that children were cared for and even though

these practices appear to our modern society as uncaring and cruel

they were, in fact, carried out with the best of intentions.

Aries in Centuries of Childhood (1962) claimed that before medieval

times the idea of a state of childhood was non-existent and parents

were not aware of the need to treat them any differently to adults.

He studied the depiction of children in paintings of the time and

concluded that children were treated the same as adults because they

were portrayed the same, with the same clothing and features. Aries,

along with Lawrence Stone, argued that there was, however, a change in

attitudes towards children during the sixteenth and seventeenth

centuries, when adults began to realise that children were emotionally

different to them and as such needed protecting.

Although most people now saw that children were different to adults

and as such needed to be treated differently, they believed that

children needed guidance and instruction to be good. Much of the

literature available for children at the time was in a prescriptive

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Edition, 1812

http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.org/TokenIndex-james_janeway.htm

(Accessed January 2005)

Pollock, L. Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations, Cambridge

University Press, 1983

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[1] Janeway, J. A Token for Children, 1676

[2] Sharpe, J. A. Early Modern England: A Social History 1550-1760,

Hodder Arnold, 1993, p. 75

[3] Quoted in Stone, L. The Family, Sex and Marriage in England

1500-1800, Penguin Books, 1990, p. 269

[4] Houlbrooke, R. The English Family 1450-1700, Longman Group Ltd,

1992, p. 132

[5] ibid, p. 269

[6] Ibid, p. 133

[7] Stone, L. The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800,

Penguin Books, 1990, p. 270

[8] Extract from Lady Anne Clifford’s Diary - July 1619
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