Selected by "Choice" magazine as an Outstanding Academic
TitleThe experiences of children in America have long been a source
of scholarly fascination and general interest. In "American
Childhoods," Joseph Illick brings together his own extensive
research and a synthesis of literature from a range of disciplines
to present the first comprehensive cross-cultural history of
childhood in America.Beginning with American Indians, European
settlers, and African slaves and their differing perceptions of how
children should be raised, "American Childhoods" moves to the
nineteenth century and the rise of industrialization to introduce
the offspring of the emerging urban middle and working classes.
Illick reveals that while rural and working-class children
continued to toil from an early age, as they had in the colonial
period, childhood among the urban middle class became recognized as
a distinct phase of life, with a continuing emphasis on gender
differences.Illick then discusses how the public school system was
created in the nineteenth century to assimilate immigrants and
discipline all children, and observes its major role in
age-grouping children as well as drawing working-class youngsters
from factories to classrooms. At the same time, such social
problems as juvenile delinquency were confronted by private
charities and, ultimately, by the state. Concluding his sweeping
study, the author presents the progeny of suburban, inner-city, and
rural Americans in the twentieth century, highlighting the growing
disparity of opportunities available to children of decaying cities
and the booming suburbs.Consistently making connections between
economics, psychology, commerce, sociology, and anthropology,
"American Childhoods" is rich with insight into the elusive world
of children. Grounded firmly in social and cultural history and
written in lucid, accessible prose, the book demonstrates how
children's experiences have varied dramatically through time and
across space, and how the idea of childhood has meant vastly
different things to different groups in American society.
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