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Children’s benefit or burden? Workshop exploring young people’s portrayals, past and present


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This 3 September 2015 workshop at King's College London will bring together NGO expertise and new historical and archaeological research to investigate the representation of children and its consequences. 

What can be learnt today from historical research into the use of children as symbols of the future? Children represent innocence, vulnerability and potential. Because of that adults portray them for a variety of ends: to sell products for companies, to bring in donations for charities, to attract votes, and shape society by absorbing norms and values. Does this matter and if so how?

This workshop considers the mobilisation and portrayal of children in the past – for example in Vichy France and Britain during the Second World War – and the presentation of young people today. Bringing together NGOs, policy makers and historians, this event will consider the following:

  • What does it mean for children to be mobilised and presented as symbols of the future?
  • Are children and young people the key beneficiaries?
  • What role have children played in the processes involved and what control do they have over the use of their image? 
  • What are the consequences of the continuous portrayal of a particular image of childhood and children? Does ‘everyday childism’ exist and if so, is it problematic?

Short presentations by historians, civil society practitioners and policy makers will be followed by small group discussions to reflect on historical research and contemporary policy and practice. The workshop is aimed at researchers in the field and NGOs and policy makers working with and for children.

By taking part in this event, participants can:

  • Understand how and why children were mobilised and portrayed in the past for various reasons
  • Reflect on the implications of this history for policy and practice today
  • Share expert knowledge about children’s agency in their portrayals and mobilisation, past and present
  • Understand the policies and practices of NGOs working with and for children, past and present
  • Learn about how historical research can inform contemporary practices

The event is part of Agents of Future Promise, an AHRC-funded project that seeks to understand the causes and consequences of the ideological use of children in culture and politics in Britain and France, 1880-1950. Save the Children and War Child are partners in the project, with historians Dr Laura King (Leeds), Dr Vicky Crewe (Cardiff) and Dr Lindsey Dodd (Huddersfield). 

See the workshop programme.

Booking is available through the King's e-store. 

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With long-established offices in King's College London and the University of Cambridge, H&P is an expanding Partnership currently supported by 6 Higher Education Institutes: King’s College London, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge, The University of Edinburgh, University of Leeds, and The University of Sheffield.

We are the only project in the UK providing access to an international network of more than 500 historians with a broad range of expertise. H&P offers a range of resources for historians, policy makers and journalists.

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