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Seemingly coming from nowhere during the 1960s and 1970s, the history of childhood and children soon carved out a respectable niche for itself in the historical literature. It is generally accepted that Philippe Ariès launched the subject in 1960 with the original French version of his Centuries of Childhood. He was the first to reveal that childhood could have a history, that besides the ‘natural’, physical, emotional, and cognitive growth common to all children, there were huge variations in the perception and experiences of the young at different periods in the past.

While the oft-cited assertion from Ariès that there was no idea of childhood in mediaeval society is now generally discredited, it did provoke historians into researching different conceptions of this stage of life in ...

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