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Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) spent much of his professional life considering the relationship between humans and nature. From the prize-winning philosophical work, A Discourse on the Sciences and Arts (1750), to his later work on political philosophy, The Social Contract (1762), Rousseau believed that what he saw as the intrinsically good nature of ‘man’ was in conflict with the corrupting influences of society.

This conflict was explored further in Rousseau’s 1762 text, Émile, or On Education, which—along with John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education, published in 1693—was one of the most influential educational works of its age. Yet it was so much more than an educational treatise; it also played its part in a definition of childhood and the fashioning of an ideal citizen that spanned social, ...

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