Childhood in the Past, volume 12 OUT NOW

Here is the editorial by Eileen Murphy for the most recent volume of CiP. Enjoy!

Welcome to the spring issue of Volume twelve of Childhood in the Past, the journal of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past (SSCIP). The issue starts with a welcome address by newly elected SSCIP President, Dr Katie Hemer. While it was sad to see our former president, Dr Sally Crawford, end her term of office she will still be very much involved in SSCIP in her new role as a vice-president. I have no doubt Katie will be an excellent president and you can read about some of her ideas in her address.

SSCIP was as busy as ever in 2018. SSCIP Committee Member, Esme Hookaway of Staffordshire University, and Marion Shiner of the University of Sheffield, ran a SSCIP stall for the second year running at the Big Biology Day at Staffordshire University on 13th October. The stall focused on childhood development and was designed by Dr Kirsty Squires of Staffordshire University. The national annual event is organized by the Royal Society of Biology to celebrate the life sciences and engage the public with hands-on events and activities delivered by a variety of organizations. Esme tells us that around 500 people visited the event, an increase of nearly 50% on the previous year’s attendees, and high levels of interest in SSCIP and the activities on the stand kept them busy all day!

The eleventh international SSCIP conference, organized by Dr Katharina Rebay-Salisbury and Dr Doris Pany-Kucera, took place on the 22nd–24th September 2018 at the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, Austria. We were all mesmerized by the incredible beauty of the museum which is home to the Venus of Willendorf. The theme of the conference was ‘Pregnancy, Birth, Early Infancy and Childhood: Life’s Greatest Transitions in the Past’. Dr Kirsty Squires wrote a review of the conference for the SSCIP blog and reports that researchers presenting at the conference came from a variety of subject areas, including archaeology, anthropology, bioarchaeology and history, and the temporal periods discussed ranged from the Gravettian through to the nineteenth century. The truly international nature of SSCIP was evidenced in the topics explored which covered past children and childhood in Greece, Italy, Spain, Britain, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Finland, Mesopotamia, Brazil, the Philippines and the USA! You can read about the conference events in detail in Kirsty’s blog entry but I just wanted to highlight her concluding comments which summarize the fantastic innovations that are helping to further our understanding of children and childhood in the past but also highlight the underlying issues that are still causing difficulty in this area of study that we need to address as a discipline. All participants agreed that the conference organizers did a wonderful job of selecting papers that showcased the wide variety of research that is currently being carried out within childhood in the past as well as ensuring that delegates had a fantastic time in the beautiful city of Vienna. In addition to the annual conference, a SSCIP-sponsored session entitled ‘Children at Work’ organized by Dr Melie Le Roy, Université Aix Marseille, and Dr Caroline Polet, Universite libre de Bruxelles and Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, took place, as part of the twenty-fourth annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, in Barcelona on the 5th–8th September 2018. Papers from the session will form the basis for the next issue of the journal.

2019 will undoubtedly be another exciting year for the Society and the twelfth SSCIP annual conference, organized by Dr Katie Hemer and Dr Sophie Newman, will take place on 30th October to 1st November and be hosted by the Sheffield Centre for the Archaeology of Childhood in the University of Sheffield. The theme of the conference will be ‘Adolescence’.

The Society’s monograph series, continues to flourish, and three volumes were published in 2018 – Nineteenth-Century Childhoods in Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives (edited by Jane Eva Baxter and Meredith Ellis; SSCIP Monograph 6); Motherhood and Infancies in the Mediterranean in Antiquity (edited by Margarita Sánchez Romero and Rosa Cid López; SSCIP Monograph 7) and Across the Generations: The Old and the Young in Past Societies (edited by Grete Lillehammer and Eileen Murphy; SSCIP Monograph 8). The fact that three volumes were produced in one year is a clear testament to the amount of exciting research now being undertaken on children and childhood in the past! Proposals for future monographs should be submitted to Dr Lynne McKerr, the newly elected General Editor of the monograph series, and details for submission may be found on the Society’s website.

The volume includes three research papers. In the first paper Povilas Blaževičius explores child labour based on dermatoglyphic evidence derived from a substantial corpus of ceramic objects recovered from thirteenth – eighteenth century context in Vilnius Castle. His paper draws upon ethnographic evidence from late nineteenth – early twentieth century potters in Lithuania which suggests that children from as young as six years of age were involved in the production of ceramics. He also discusses the difficulties associated with the method and emphasizes how the use of an approach that combines archaeological, historical and ethnographical evidence can provide the greatest insights concerning child labour.

In their paper, Andrea Cucina and Héctor Hernández Álvarez explore the nature of the living conditions experienced by the workers and their families who resided in the henequen haciendas of the Yucatán region of Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. They investigate death records for the hacienda San Pedro Cholul dating to between 1871 and 1900, which indicate a very high infant mortality, as well as general death patterns due to a variety of diseases. Excavations at the site provided a further source of evidence in relation to the health status of the inhabitants. Glass bottles, that would have contained medical treatments against dysentery, intestinal parasites and malnutrition, were recovered. The combined historical and archaeological investigation provided insights concerning both the difficulties of life experienced by the hacienda inhabitants but also how they tried to counteract the many ailments which they experienced.

Jane Eva Baxter’s paper focuses on how children were taught about mortality in nineteenth-century America. Her paper explores how children, in an era of high child mortality, understood death and the possibility of their own untimely demise. She discusses how adults used a variety of mechanisms to introduce children to the concept of death, such as visits to cemeteries, photography with deceased siblings, literature and poetry, and funeral play with dolls. She then addresses the agency of the child to determine what children were learning through these adult-led activities. Drawing upon a twentieth-century ethnographic study of terminally ill children she suggests that the experiences and materials designed to teach children how to cope with death also taught them how to die a good death themselves or how to manage when their peers died.

The issue ends with four book reviews, compiled by Simon Mays, on a range of exciting recent publications that cover child bioarchaeology, anthropological approaches to breastfeeding as well as period-based Post-Medieval studies of Nordic childhoods and European day nurseries and childcare practices.