Children Remembered

Children Remembered: Responses to Untimely Death in the Past

Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Children Remembered
    Book Description:

    Children Remembered discusses the relationship between parents and children in the past. It focuses on the ways in which adults responded to the untimely deaths of children, whether and how they expressed their grief. The study engages with the hypothesis of ‘parental indifference’ associated with the French cultural historian Philippe Ariès by analysing the changing risk of mortality since the sixteenth century and assessing its consequences. It uses paintings and poems to describe feelings and emotions in ways that are not only highly original, but also challenge traditional disciplinary conventions. The circumstances of infant and child mortality are considered for France and England, while example portraits and poems are selected from England and America. While the work is firmly grounded in demography, it is especially concerned with current debates in social and cultural history, with the history of childhood, the way pictorial images can be ‘read’, and the use as historical evidence to which literature may be put. This is a wide- ranging and ambitions multi-disciplinary study that will add significantly to our understanding of demographic structures; the ways in which they have conditioned attitudes and behaviour in the past.

    eISBN: 978-1-78138-048-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. x-x)
  5. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. 1 Introduction: ‘the lines of life’
    (pp. 1-6)

    How did adults, and especially parents, respond to the early deaths of children? Was the bond of emotional attachment between parents and offspring as close in the past as it is said to be today? How was that attachment expressed? What influence did the demographic environment in which people lived, especially the risk of dying, have on attitudes and behaviour when survival chances were largely beyond human control? How, for how long and with what intensity were dead children mourned? Were children’s short lives commemorated, and was their loss grieved over? These are important and intriguing questions, which have attracted...

  7. 2 Après la mort des enfants
    (pp. 7-32)

    Philippe Ariès (1914–84) has provided many highly original perspectives on the history of the family and on attitudes to death in the West. While he is remembered most for the latter, his contribution to the new history of childhood has proved remarkably influential in both France and the English-speaking world. For historical demographers there is a special interest in his ‘parental indifference hypothesis’ and the behavioural conditioning that low infant survival chances may have engendered in the past. The development and continuing popularity of such a hypothesis provides us with a useful device for the exploration of childcare and...

  8. 3 Mortality, Childcare and Mourning
    (pp. 33-60)

    These three sentences tell us everything, and nothing. They are largely correct, yet they express our deep ignorance. Perhaps the best way to begin this discussion of the risk of premature death in the past, to place it on as secure a footing as possible, is to demonstrate the importance of the problem. The proportion of all deaths that would have occurred to infants and children under 10 years of age is likely to have varied with the general level of mortality. In a society with very high mortality (life expectancy at birth less than 30 years), one should expect...

  9. 4 Children in Pictures and Monuments
    (pp. 61-94)

    Pictures, especially paintings and even some photographs, have proved a tantalising source of evidence for historians. Their attraction is obvious; they appear to give an immediate visualisation of what it was like in the past, how our ancestors looked, how they lived, significant events, their environment, and so forth. But several generations of art historians have also counselled caution, advice that has generally been taken seriously by other specialists to the extent that some would not now regard visual images as offering suitable materials for historical analysis. This chapter takes the advice offered by Francis Haskell, however, and adopts the...

  10. 5 Emotions and Literature
    (pp. 95-130)

    Shakespeare’s 11-year-old twin son, Hamnet, was buried on 11 August 1596. How did his father react to the death? Did he express his grief, and if so in what way? To what extent can his work be seen to be autobiographical or biographical? If Shakespeare did express his own feelings of loss and regret, were other poets and playwrights so moved by their experiences?¹⁸⁵ Chapter 5 explores some of these questions, but it will also conduct an experiment to see whether it is possible to use literary works as a way of describing changing attitudes to the deaths of children...

  11. 6 Poems, Mainly of Child Loss
    (pp. 131-168)
  12. 7 The Vocabulary of Grief
    (pp. 169-208)

    Almost all of the 69 are elegies, ‘mournful poems’ for the dead, and several are also epitaphs, poems inscribed or purporting to be inscribed on tombs. Most are sincere expressions of feelings towards the recently departed; they signify bereavement, although in a few cases sincerity may be questioned and a commercial motive suspected. Usually the subject is a child, but infants, the unborn, and women who are about to or who have recently given birth also have a place. A small number of the subjects are spouses, mourned by their partners. How should we read these elegies?

    Literary critics and...

  13. 8 Parallel Histories: Experience and Expression
    (pp. 209-216)

    It has been said on several occasions that this study has been an experiment. Has it been successful? There are several reasons for optimism. First, it has proved possible to chart the risks of life and death in France and England as they affected infants, children and mothers, and to do this in such a way that differences between the two societies become obvious. This has not been a relatively simple task. It rests upon the cumulative findings of generations of historical demographers, not to mention a number of assumptions about the quality of statistical data and the justification for...

  14. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 217-218)
  15. Notes on the Sixty-Nine Poems
    (pp. 219-230)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 231-269)
  17. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 270-280)
  18. Index
    (pp. 281-289)