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Children and War

A Historical Anthology

James Marten, Robert Coles

Publication Year: 2002

"This anthology is breathtaking in its geographic and temporal sweep."—Canadian Journal of History

The American media has recently "discovered" children's experiences in present-day wars. A week-long series on the plight of child soldiers in Africa and Latin America was published in Newsday and newspapers have decried the U.S. government's reluctance to sign a United Nations treaty outlawing the use of under-age soldiers. These and numerous other stories and programs have shown that the number of children impacted by war as victims, casualties, and participants has mounted drastically during the last few decades.

Although the scale on which children are affected by war may be greater today than at any time since the world wars of the twentieth century, children have been a part of conflict since the beginning of warfare. Children and War shows that boys and girls have routinely contributed to home front war efforts, armies have accepted under-aged soldiers for centuries, and war-time experiences have always affected the ways in which grown-up children of war perceive themselves and their societies.

The essays in this collection range from explorations of childhood during the American Revolution and of the writings of free black children during the Civil War to children's home front war efforts during World War II, representations of war and defeat in Japanese children's magazines, and growing up in war-torn Liberia. Children and War provides a historical context for two centuries of children's multi-faceted involvement with war.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

The past century has told us much about the inner life of children—their desires and worries, their attachments and aspirations for the future. By now we understand the home life of children, as well as their struggles within the family and on the streets and playing grounds of the neighborhoods which they have come to know as their very own. We also observe schoolchildren with increasing sensitivity and...

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pp. xv-xvi

Like all anthologies, Children and War is truly the product of the work of many different people coming together to tell the often sad, sometimes inspiring, but always important stories of the ways children have been and are affected by war. This particular team came together when, at the invitation of Jennifer Hammer of NYU Press, I issued a call via H-Net for essays on children and war. Well over forty scholars responded. ...

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pp. 1-10

Autumn 2000: An outburst of Palestinian-Israeli violence in Gaza pins down a Palestinian father and his twelve-year-old son; a French film crew catches the horror in the boy’s eyes—and his death a moment later as bullets rip into him and his father.1 1989: Dozens of young Iranian soldiers while away their time in a dreary Iraqi prisoner-of-war camp; although they are now in their late teens or early twenties, they have been in prison for...

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Memory and Meaning

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pp. 11-13

In the summer of 1876, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his men swooped down on a massive encampment of Sioux and Cheyennes along the Little Big Horn River—called the “Greasy Grass” by Native Americans. The battle became one of the worst defeats in American military history, with perhaps 2,500 or so warriors overwhelming the 500 men of the Seventh Cavalry, wiping out the 210 men in Custer’s...

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1. Childhood, Memory, and the American Revolution

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pp. 15-25

During the era of the American Revolution, the United States was both a young nation and a nation of young people. In 1790, according to the first national census, almost half the U.S. population was under age sixteen.1 A large percentage of Americans who lived through the Revolutionary War (1775–1783) were children. Although writing an autobiography was a very rare undertaking for that era, over seventy people...

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2. “After the War I Am Going to Put Myself a Sailor”: Geography,Writing, and Race in the Letters of Free Children of Color in Civil War New Orleans

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pp. 26-37

In the fall of 1861, Etienne Pérault wrote a letter to his cousin, “J. Jeansème,” in Paris. Etienne, a free boy of color some thirteen years of age, lived in New Orleans. At the time he was writing, however, the city of New Orleans, like other port cities in the Confederacy, was under blockade by the Union navy.1 And yet Etienne wrote to Jeansème about a voyage he had taken in July to the islands of Saint Marc and Haiti. He...

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3. Flowers of Evil: Mass Media, Child Psychology, and the Struggle for Russia’s Future during the First World War

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pp. 38-49

How does media violence affect children? This question is as difficult to answer now as it was during the First World War, when Russian pedagogues, teachers, and journalists first began to grapple with the problem. For them, the Great War loomed as a watershed event in human history, an event with the power to remake nations, peoples, and individuals. Today historians have little doubt that World War I introduced...

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4. Imagining Anzac: Children’s Memories of the Killing Fields of the Great War

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pp. 50-62

On Armistice Day 1921, a grim crowd of returned soldiers and widowed mothers huddled on the balcony of Sydney’s Soldiers’ Club. As 11 a.m. approached, the great city around them fell suddenly silent, the bells of the post office clanged to a solemn close, and traffic spluttered to a standstill. The company on the balcony bowed their heads in prayer. All seemed perfect reverence. “The silence,” one wrote, “was...

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5. Rescue and Trauma: Jewish Children and the Kindertransports during the Holocaust

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pp. 63-74

Although the Nazis wished to liquidate all Jews, they especially targeted the children, who represented the future and the potential of Judaism. The Nazis considered the children special threats because unlike the middle-aged and the elderly, Jewish children had many years ahead of them in which to produce more offspring and renew the ethnic group, thus hindering the Nazi “Final Solution.” But the Nazi war...

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6. Mama, Are We Going to Die? America’s Children Confront the Cuban Missile Crisis

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pp. 75-86

Monday, October 22, 1962 dawned warm and sunny in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Eleven-year-old Deborah spent the day in the pleasures of the moment. Within twenty-four hours, her world would spiral into chaos. As she recalled: You can imagine what I thought when my normally reassuring mother went up to the corner market, Raders, and came home, and right in front of me, proceeded to unload box...

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7. Bereavement in a War Zone: Liberia in the 1990s

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pp. 87-98

Ella1 was thirteen years old at the beginning of the civil conflict in Liberia. Her father was a fisherman working on the lush coastline of the capital city, Monrovia. Two years later, Ella was living in an orphanage. Her parents had been killed during the early fighting. A Liberian counselor asked Ella to talk about the most difficult experience she had...

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Lessons and Literature

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pp. 99-101

Anyone who doubts that the writing of history books for schoolchildren— or for any audience, for that matter—is subjective, messy, and highly politicized should observe the Texas State Board of Education’s textbook review process, “an exercise,” according to a wry account of a recent round of hearings, “in the short-sighted leading the stone-blind bravely into the pitch-darkness.” The most contentious category...

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8. Representations of War and Martial Heroes in English Elementary School Reading and Rituals, 1885–1914

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pp. 103-115

So wrote John Landon in his teachers’ manual of 1894.1 Landon, while clearly addressing objections to this position, was certainly not alone in his views. In English elementary schools in the period 1885–1914, working and lower-middle-class students, particularly but not exclusively the boys, were explicitly instructed in the importance of martial values. Representations of warfare and warrior heroes literally surrounded...

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9. The Child in the Flying Machine: Childhood and Aviation in the First World War

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pp. 116-134

In September 1914, a postcard entitled “le taube” circulated in France. “Le taube” was a Gallicism of the German word for “dove,” and the “dove” shown was actually a German airplane similar to the one that had flown over Paris on a reconnaissance mission that month. The picture of a courageous mother shielding her child framed the...

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10. World Friendship: Children, Parents, and Peace Education in America between the Wars

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pp. 135-146

“Will Our Children Outlaw War?” asked Parents’ Magazine in 1933. “The answer to that question depends on what they are learning now in home and school.” Psychologist and author Helen K. Champlin urged parents to instill “world-mindedness” in their offspring through readings, games, and activities in the home. The potential benefits were...

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11. Ghosts and the Machine: Teaching Emiliano Zapata and the Mexican Revolution since 1921

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pp. 147-159

Since the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, “revolutionary” states emerging from civil wars have sought to consolidate and institutionalize their rule through ambitious federal education systems. In the Soviet Union and postrevolutionary China, federal schools strove mightily to carve nations of productive, nationalist citizens out of ethnically...

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12. Japanese Children and the Culture of Death, January–August 1945

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pp. 160-171

A year after Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War, teacher Kayahara Kazan wrote to the Mainichi newspaper deploring the lack of a “scientific attitude of life” among his countryfolk. What was needed, he said, was a new moral spirit for the youth of Japan. Commenting bitterly on Japan’s wartime culture of death, Kayahara made the inevitable comparison...

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13. The Antifascist Narrative: Memory Lessons in the Schools of the Soviet Occupation Zone, 1945–1949

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pp. 172-183

In May 1945, after twelve years of the National Socialist, or Nazi, dictatorship and six years of war, Germany surrendered unconditionally to the victorious forces of the United States,Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. The end to the fighting did not bring about immediate relief for many Germans, particularly for young people in the Soviet...

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14. Humanitarian Sympathy for Children in Times of War and the History of Children’s Rights, 1919–1959

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pp. 184-199

The sympathy for child victims of war has been a major factor in the adoption of international declarations of children’s rights. Since their formulation in the early 1920s, it has been a recurrent belief among governments and voluntary agencies that the notion of children’s rights represented the surest way to channel the humanitarian movements...

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Actors and Victims

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pp. 201-203

After visitors to the Imperial War Museum in London examine the antique tanks and airplanes, explore the exhibits dedicated to Britain’s major wars, wander a realistic trench from the First World War just as a squad of grimy tommies are about to go over the top, and survive the “Blitz Experience” in the blacked out bomb shelter—complete with...

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15. “These Unfortunate Children”: Sons and Daughters of the Regiment in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France

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pp. 205-215

Children had long been a part of European armies when the French Revolution broke out in 1789. During the Thirty Years’ War, the Spanish Army of Flanders was followed by “sutlers, lackeys, women, children, and a rabble which numbered far more than itself.” A century and a half later, little had changed. A Hessian captain in 1812 wrote that...

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16. Children and the New Zealand Wars: An Exploration

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pp. 216-226

The armed conflict which disrupted indigenous (Maori) and settler (Pakeha) relationships in several North Island regions of New Zealand during the 1860s was esssentially a war about government policy. Maori fought on both sides; colonists criticized Crown strategies; eminent Pakeha espoused the legitimacy of the Maori cause; military and political authorities quarreled openly over the nature of the campaign...

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17. Stolen Generations and Vanishing Indians: The Removal of Indigenous Children as a Weapon of War in the United States and Australia, 1870–1940

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pp. 227-241

In 1906, a girl named Helen “awoke to find [her] camp surrounded by troops.” A government official, she later recalled, “called the men together, ordering the women and children to remain in their separate family groups.” “The government,” he said: had reached the limit of its patience and that the children would have to go to school. . . . All children of school age were lined...

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18. “Baptized in Blood”: Children in the Time of the Sandino Rebellion, Nicaragua, 1927–1934

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pp. 242-253

Toward the end of 1926, in the verdant Segovian mountains of northern Nicaragua, twelve-year-old Santos L

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19. “Too Young for a Uniform”: Children’s War Work on the Iowa Farm Front, 1941–1945

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pp. 254-265

The Sunday of December 7, 1941, started like most Sundays for Fred Higginbottom, age seven. His family went to church that morning in nearby Elkhart, Iowa, and when they returned home, his mother served the family dinner. Fred later left with his father to tend and feed their cattle on the Manning land, a newly rented field some distance from their farmhouse. The December afternoon had been cold but...

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20. Against Their Will: The Use and Abuse of British Children during the Second World War

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pp. 266-278

Prior to the outbreak of war in 1939, 1,500,000 British children were moved from their homes in the cities to rural areas over a period of three days. Subsequent large-scale evacuations also took place in 1940 and 1944. Yet despite the uniqueness of this mass child migration, traditional accounts of British wartime history have failed to include the experiences...

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21. Innocent Victims and Heroic Defenders: Children and the Siege of Leningrad

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pp. 279-290

By the fall of 1941, as the German army closed its blockade of Leningrad and the German air force began its campaign to bomb the city into submission, only a small fraction of the city’s 400,000 children had been evacuated. 1 Few children escaped the city during the first months of the siege, when the daily bread ration for dependents fell to 125 grams. No official figures count the number of children who died during the...

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pp. 291-293

Perhaps the most famous image of a twentieth-century child marked by war is the photograph taken on June 8, 1972, during North Vietnam’s so-called “Easter Offensive.” When a South Vietnamese pilot accidentally bombed a temple in the little village of Trang Bang in Hau Nghia province, just northwest of Saigon, a number of South Vietnamese civilians were killed and injured. The napalm splashed over the back...


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pp. 295-301


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pp. 303-307


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pp. 309-313

E-ISBN-13: 9780814759981
E-ISBN-10: 081475998X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814756669
Print-ISBN-10: 0814756662

Page Count: 332
Publication Year: 2002