The Pilgrims and Puritans did not arrive on the shores of New England alone. Nor did African men and women, brought to the Americas as slaves. Though it would be hard to tell from the historical record, European colonists and African slaves had children, as did the indigenous families whom they encountered, and those children's life experiences enrich and complicate our understanding of colonial America.
Through essays, primary documents, and contemporary illustrations, Children in Colonial America examines the unique aspects of childhood in the American colonies between the late sixteenth and late eighteenth centuries. The twelve original essays observe a diverse cross-section of children—from indigenous peoples of the east coast and Mexico to Dutch-born children of the Plymouth colony and African-born offspring of slaves in the Caribbean—and explore themes including parenting and childrearing practices, children's health and education, sibling relations, child abuse, mental health, gender, play, and rites of passage.
Taken together, the essays and documents in Children in Colonial America shed light on the ways in which the process of colonization shaped childhood, and in turn how the experience of children affected life in colonial America.
“Marten adds to the growing body of literature on the history of family life with this rich collection of original essays and transcriptions from primary documents. Divided into thematic subdivisions relating to Europeans and Native Americans, issues of family and community, and the process of becoming American, the 12 essays contributed mainly by history academics examine children's lives from the varied cultures found in Colonial North America and contain copious footnotes and a list of suggested further reading. Such topics as parenting practices, health, education, gender roles, and rites of passage are touched on. The small selection of primary documents (excerpts from letters, diaries, and autobiographies) add depth to an already well-written and researched work whose real strength is its juxtaposition of children's lives across a variety of Colonial cultures.”
“Providing fresh historical perspectives on key features of children's lives, this book offers compelling, new materials on childhood in colonial America, and on groups—including Native Americans and Hispanics—too often left out of conventional coverage.”
—Peter Stearns, George Mason University
“Children in Colonial America is a highly original contribution to the history of childhood. The collection’s unique strength lies in its great range of regions and peoples represented: from Indian children of Mexico to young Africans in Jamaica, from Separatist Pilgrims in the Netherlands and Plymouth to Catholic girls in Germany, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. Although ideal for the classroom, these essays offer much that will be of interest to seasoned scholars.”
—Gloria L. Main, University of Colorado-Boulder
“Few books can be all things to all people, but this one is an exception.”
—Kenneth J. Blume
“A useful and largely impressive anthology on an under-studied topic.”
“Brings together a broad range of provocative essays on a diverse cast of children from within and without the British American colonies.”
—Journal of Social History
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