Revolutions at Home
The Origin of Modern Childhood and the German Middle Class
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
How did we come to imagine what “ideal childhood" requires? Beginning in the late eighteenth century, German child-rearing radically transformed, and as these innovations in ideology and educational practice spread from middle-class families across European society, childhood came to be seen as a life stage critical to self-formation. This new approach was in part a process that adults imposed on youth, one that hinged on motivating children's behavior through affection and cultivating internal discipline. But this is not just a story about parents' and pedagogues' efforts to shape childhood. Offering rare glimpses of young students' diaries, letters, and marginalia, Emily C. Bruce reveals how children themselves negotiated these changes.
Revolutions at Home analyzes a rich set of documents created for and by young Germans to show that children were central to reinventing their own education between 1770 and 1850. Through their reading and writing, they helped construct the modern child subject. The active child who emerged at this time was not simply a consequence of expanding literacy but, in fact, a key participant in defining modern life.
“Emily Bruce’s Revolutions at Home: The Origin of Modern Childhood and the German Middle Class provides a needed intervention in our understanding of the Age of Revolution by examining new conceptions of childhood and children’s reading and writing practices from 1770 to 1850 . . . The book is an excellent model for readers seeking to learn how to examine histories of children’s experiences and childhood across a range of geographic and temporal periods.”—Social History
"Bruce compellingly demonstrates how German pedagogues, authors of children's tales, and children themselves constructed a new 'childhood subjectivity.' This study will appeal to readers interested in the histories of childhood, education, and German middle-class identity, as well as anyone curious about the origins of classics like Grimms' fairy tales."—Anna Kuxhausen, author of From the Womb to the Body Politic: Raising the Nation in Enlightenment Russia
"A new and valuable contribution to the growing literature on children's literacy and writing."—Andrea Immel, author of Childhood and Children's Books in Early Modern Europe, 1550–1800