Fall 2011

Childhood and Child Welfare in the Modern World

Listed in: History, as HIST-217


Ellen R. Boucher (Section 01)


[c] The recent trend of big-name celebrities adopting children from the developing world has made international child welfare the subject of rich public debate. Is it right for citizens of wealthier countries to remove children from poorer nations to give them a better life, or does this act constitute a blatant case of cultural imperialism and “child stealing”? The issue hinges on the question of whether it is possible to define a single, universal standard of child welfare. If the answer is yes, then intervening into other families and societies is justified to give all children a “proper childhood.” If the answer is no, then all manner of child-centered humanitarianism becomes subject to critique. This course explores the historical roots of these current social issues. It begins by analyzing the creation of a “modern” definition of childhood in the era of the Enlightenment, then follows the attempts of nineteenth and twentieth century reformers to extend this model of childhood throughout Europe and the European empires. Topics include debates over the limits of parental rights, the role of ethnicity and culture in childrearing, definitions of child abuse, international charities and NGOs, adoption, and child psychology. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester.  Professor Boucher.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011