Young Citizens: Children and Childhood in French Revolutionary Politics and Culture
This thesis explores the representations, voices and experiences of French Revolutionary children during the 1790s. It demonstrates the ways in which children and adolescents were integrated into revolutionary political culture and highlights the interconnection between ideas, practice and experience. The Revolution stimulated the development of a new relationship between children and the state, such that children became fundamental to French Revolutionary culture in multiple ways: they existed as symbolic objects, as the targets of new pedagogical reforms, and as active members of society who might engage in popular
Chapter One discusses representations of childhood, from the mid-eighteenth century to Year II (1793â€“94). It underlines the development of a secular, sentimental paradigm of childhood virtue and innocence, and demonstrates how this paradigm was repurposed in political culture of the 1780s and 1790s, creating a society in which children were bound to both family and state. Chapter Two analyses schoolbooks teaching language and grammar which were published in the 1790s, demonstrating that children were integrated into revolutionary political culture through these elementary texts. Chapter Three studies public speeches and civic contributions made by children, from forgotten young patriots to the young Charles Nodier. Drawing on scholarship on childrenâ€™s agency, it argues that they could actively engage in local civic life. Finally, Chapter Four argues that childhood was reconceptualised after Thermidor. It analyses the proceedings of youth festivals (fĂŞtes de la jeunesse) and school prizegiving ceremonies under the Directory and Consulate to show how these represented a new focus on the education of young men to stabilise society. Speeches by officials, teachers and pupils show how these ideas were presented directly to youths and how they engaged with them within the festival context.