Childhood in World History: 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Childhood in World History

2nd Edition

By Peter N Stearns

© 2011 – Routledge

180 pages

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pub: 2010-10-27
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About the Book

Praise for the first edition:

'Those seeking a primer on the field… might well begin here' H-Childhood, H-Net Reviews

'a succinct and deft survey… Undoubtedly this book will be a godsend to teachers… In the assured hands of Stearns, with his readily accessible style, readers will come away much better informed…' - Social History of Medicine

'Stearns's treatment is characteristically learned, conceptually sleek, and sensitive to societal and temporal variation.' - Journal of Social History

'an engaging, well-written, and thoughtful resource for readers who seek a solid understanding of the subject.' - History of Education Quarterly

Childhood exists in all societies, though there is huge variation in the way it is socially constructed across time and place. Studying childhood historically greatly advances our understanding of what childhood is about and a world history focus permits some of the broadest questions to be asked.

This new edition of Childhood in World History has been completely updated, including:

  • An expanded discussion of the theory and methodology involved in a global history of childhood
  • Expanded coverage of childhood in Africa and South Asia
  • Extra material on religious change, including more discussion of Judaism and Islam
  • New material on the role of the state
  • A brand new comparative chapter on happiness and childhood

Now fully up to date, this second edition of Childhood in World History highlights the gains but also the divisions and losses for children across the millennia.


'Reviewers praised the first edition of this book as a "primer in the field," and the same could be said of this updated edition, published five years later. Expanding his book to include more material on different parts of the world (Africa and South Asia, for example), Stearns (George Mason Univ.) has compressed an encyclopedic perspective on global childhood into a concise, readable 14 chapters. The book is organized more or less chronologically, moving from agricultural and classical civilizations through "modern" childhood, the colonial era, and the 20th century. Thus, the organization is traditional (and somewhat uninspired), as are the topics covered, though Stearns also takes an occasional foray into thematic topics, including a fascinating chapter on the history of children's happiness. The inclusion of a thorough selection of further readings enriches the book's value. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduate and general collections.' -- K. Dubinsky, Queen's University, CHOICE

'Stearns updates his earlier study of the global history of childhood with…a lucid analysis of new research and synthesis of previous secondary works in the field…Scholars researching the history of play and childhood will find Stearns’ work an interesting survey of how attitudes towards children and child rearing have evolved over time and very valuable to those who study the nature of play.' —Ellen M. Tsagaris, Rock Island, IL

Table of Contents

Preface 1 Introduction: childhood in world history 2 Childhood in agricultural societies: the first big changes 3 Childhood in the classical civilizations 4 Childhood in postclassical world history: the impact of religious change 5 Contacts and Contrasts in the Postclassical World 6 Forces of change and the modern model of childhood: developments in the west, eighteenth century to 1914 7 Alongside the modern model: the pressures of colonialism 8 Modern childhood in Asia: Japan adapts the new model 9 Childhood and communist revolutions 10 Childhood in the affluent societies, twentieth and twenty-first centuries 11 The dislocations in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: children face war and violence 12 Globalization and childhoods 13 The Dilemma of Children’s Happiness 14 Conclusion: childhoods from past toward future

About the Author

Peter N. Stearns is Provost and Professor of History at George Mason University. He is co-author of Premodern Travel in World History (2008), and author of Globalization in World History (2009), Sexuality in World History (2009), Gender in World History (2nd edition 2006), Consumerism in World History (2nd edition 2006), and Western Civilization in World History (2003), all in this series. His other recent publications include The Global Experience (2005) and World History in Brief (2007).

About the Series

Themes in World History

The Themes in World History series provides exciting, new and wide-ranging surveys of the important themes of world history. Each theme is examined over a broad period of time allowing analysis of continuities and change, and introduces students to historians' methods and debates in their context.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Children's Studies