Empire, Education, and Indigenous Childhoods: Nineteenth-Century Missionary Infant Schools in Three British Colonies, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Empire, Education, and Indigenous Childhoods

Nineteenth-Century Missionary Infant Schools in Three British Colonies, 1st Edition

By Helen May, Baljit Kaur


300 pages

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Paperback: 9781138252882
pub: 2016-10-19
Hardback: 9781472409607
pub: 2014-04-14
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pub: 2016-05-06
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Taking up a little-known story of education, schooling, and missionary endeavor, Helen May, Baljit Kaur, and Larry Prochner focus on the experiences of very young ’native’ children in three British colonies. In missionary settlements across the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand, Upper Canada, and British-controlled India, experimental British ventures for placing young children of the poor in infant schools were simultaneously transported to and adopted for all three colonies. From the 1820s to the 1850s, this transplantation of Britain’s infant schools to its distant colonies was deemed a radical and enlightened tool that was meant to hasten the conversion of 'heathen' peoples by missionaries to Christianity and to European modes of civilization. The intertwined legacies of European exploration, enlightenment ideals, education, and empire building, the authors argue, provided a springboard for British colonial and missionary activity across the globe during the nineteenth century. Informed by archival research and focused on the shared as well as unique aspects of the infant schools’ colonial experience, Empire, Education, and Indigenous Childhoods illuminates both the pervasiveness of missionary education and the diverse contexts in which its attendant ideals were applied.


'Empire, Education, and Indigenous Childhoods perforce covers a lot of ground. … the book is outstanding as a guide to the topic, as well as a helpful treatment of the topic itself.' Journal of British Studies '… this is a complex, intensively research, and extensively grounded book. Little-known episodes from the past are etched out and an exploratory, non-judgmental framework is used for analysis.' Historical Studies in Education

About the Authors

Helen May is Professor of Education at the University of Otago College of Education, Dunedin, New Zealand; Baljit Kaur is an independent scholar based in Ottawa, Canada; and Larry Prochner is Professor of Elementary Education at the University of Alberta, Canada.

About the Series

Studies in Childhood, 1700 to the Present

Studies in Childhood, 1700 to the Present

This series recognizes and supports innovative work on the child and on literature for children and adolescents that informs teaching and engages with current and emerging debates in the field. Proposals are welcome for interdisciplinary and comparative studies by humanities scholars working in a variety of fields, including literature; book history, periodicals history, and print culture and the sociology of texts; theater, film, musicology, and performance studies; history, including the history of education; gender studies; art history and visual culture; cultural studies; and religion.

Topics might include, among other possibilities, how concepts and representations of the child have changed in response to adult concerns; postcolonial and transnational perspectives; "domestic imperialism" and the acculturation of the young within and across class and ethnic lines; the commercialization of childhood and children's bodies; views of young people as consumers and/or originators of culture; the child and religious discourse; children's and adolescents' self-representations; and adults' recollections of childhood.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century