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Horrible Histories? Children's Lives in Historical Contexts

King's Building, Strand Campus
Conference/Seminar, Other
16 (09:00) - 18/06/2016 (17:45)

Registration is now closed and no on-site payment will be accepted during the conference.

Please contact if you have any queries.


Horrible Histories? Children’s Lives in Historical Contexts

16-18 June 2016, King’s College London


Theme and Focus

It is now over forty years since the bold declaration of psychohistorian Lloyd deMause that ‘The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken’. Stirred by such claims, scholars have subsequently tested the ‘nightmare thesis’ for both the pre-modern and modern eras, locating children’s agency in unexpected places and stressing the contingencies of context, gender, ethnicity, age, class, caste and sexuality. Narratives of historic and contemporary institutional abuse, however, together with insights concerning the legacies of forced child migration, children’s labours and other challenging aspects of childhood experience, suggest that sorrow rather than joy characterises much scholarship on children and childhood. Should this be so?

In another context, since 1993 the phenomenally successful Horrible Histories books, stage plays and television series have helped introduce countless thousands of children around the world to the past. As their titles indicate, Horrible Histories also examine difficult and sometimes grisly historical episodes. Progressive narratives are at work here too, reinforced by children’s museum exhibits emphasising an emergence from the ‘dark ages’ of childhood in the twentieth century.

‘Horrible Histories? Children’s Lives in Historical Contexts’ is the launch conference marking the inauguration of the new UK-based Children’s History Society. Offering a forum for historical reflections from established and upcoming historians of children, childhood and youth, we also anticipate that this will be a platform for school-age scholars to reflect on the ways they respond to the history. This three-day conference will host papers on the following themes:

  • Dealing with difficult history and heritage
  • Children’s histories and the longue durée
  • The ‘West and the rest’ in children’s history
  • Definitions of subjecthood and status
  • Pain and resilience
  • Archival approaches for retrieving children’s agency
  • The things of childhood
  • Play as protest, recreation and the ‘work’ of childhood
  • Children’s histories in museums, online and in the media
  • The histories of children’s places and places for children
  • Future trajectories for researching children’s histories

Note that our definition of children is flexible, reflecting the multiple constructions through time of childhood as a social category.

You can follow the progress of the Children’s History Society via Facebook and Twitter.


 Additional Information

Meeting Venue & Conference Programme

The meeting venue will be the Council Room (K2.29), King's Building, Strand Campus. More details are available on the meeting venue document.

Refer to the full programme and list of abstracts to plan your days at the conference. 

Navigation on the Strand Campus

Refer to our navigation guide for finding programmed venues.

Travel and Lodging

View our international travel, local travel and lodging advice and list of hotels near the Strand Campus for help planning your stay in London and navigating your way around.

Fees and Registration

Registration is now closed and no on-site payment will be accepted during the conference.

This conference is supported by the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies and the Department of History at King's and is affiliated with the University of Greenwich.

 UoG 2016 A4 15

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