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Childhood During the Revolution and War Years Essay


Childhood and the Industrial Revolution: Child Labor and Juvenile Crime

During the Industrial Revolution, a variety of jobs were employed by young children. One of these jobs was in the mining industry. Children, both boys, and girls were expected to work upwards of sixteen hours a day in unsafe conditions (Rogers, 2003). Mostly, the children working in the mines suffered from high levels of fatigue. One example is of an eight-year-old boy, whose mother had to come and take him home because he could not physically walk (Rogers, 2003). Other children worked in textile factories for around the same amount of hours per day (Rogers, 2003).

I believe that children who were employed during the Industrial Revolution did not have a childhood. They were working long hours during the day and were too exhausted at night to do anything but sleep. I also feel that the children did not have much of family life. More likely than not, their mothers were also working. I think that if the children were not working, they were deprived of a family upbringing. I can imagine a mother working all day did not want to come home and have to entertain or care for their children due to sheer exhaustion.

It baffles me that in the article by Ure, factory work for children is not criticized, but defended (Rogers, 2003). I cannot believe that they would say that children are better off being cooped up indoors all day and that airborne illness was less prevalent in a factory environment (Rogers, 2003).

With the coming of more and more people to the cities for factory work, there was an increase in crime rates. Some of these crimes were committed by juvenile offenders, mostly young boys (Shore, 2000). At the time, children were convicted of these crimes in quick trials by several magistrates and were often sentenced to hard labor in adult prisons (Shore, 2000). According to Shore (2000), the juveniles would commit their crimes for probably a year before they were caught and brought to a magistrate. At this point, if the child was found guilty, they would “receive a fine, a whipping, or more likely a short spell in the house of correction” (Shore, 2000, p. 26).

More likely than not, children would still go on to commit further criminal acts and often end up in prison for longer periods (Shore, 2000). If the crime committed by a juvenile was especially heinous, such as murder, they could still be sentenced to death (Shore, 2000). As the era progressed, changes were made to the juvenile system so children were beginning to be placed in reform schools as opposed to being sentenced to hard labor or prison time (Shore, 2003).

I find it very interesting that children were treated so much like adults during this period. I would think that courts would understand that juveniles who committed crimes probably did not have any other choice. Most likely, they were probably starving and needed to steal food to stay alive. I think what happened was that the courts just saw an increase in crime and took action the best way they knew how. I am glad children are no longer sentenced to death and there is much more being done to rehabilitate child offenders. Word Count: 542

Aspects of Childhood in the 18th and 19th Centuries

“The Story of Grandmother” differs greatly from that of the ones written by Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. “The Story of Grandmother” does not seem to be something that would be read to children, in my opinion. It involves themes such as cannibalism and sex. The wolf eats the grandmother, as in the other tales; however, he saves bits of meat and the blood of the grandmother that the little girl eats when she arrives at the home (Tatar, 1999).

Also, the author of this tale has the cat tell the little girl that she is a “slut” for eating these things and the wolf entices her to take off her clothing (Tatar, 1999). I do not think that at the time, parents would want their children to be told tales that involved taboo subjects like sex or even the illusion of sex. Also, there is no mention of the little girl wearing a red riding hood or red garments. The elements of cannibalism and sex are removed by both Perrault and the Brothers Grimm in their later versions.

Perrault’s story is closer to the story of Red Riding Hood that is known today. Something that stands out as similar to the story told today is that the little girl wears a red riding hood. The one difference is that the wolf eats both Red Riding Hood and her grandmother with the moral that little girls should not speak to strangers and stray from the paths they are supposed to take (Tatar, 1999).

The Brothers Grimm gets rid of the little girl in the red riding hood and instead gives her a red cap. In their version, the huntsman saves both Little Red Cap and her grandmother, which was something that did not happen in the prior versions (Tatar, 1999). I believe that the Brothers Grimm still keep the same moral about not speaking to strangers that Perrault does, but they do not take it to an extreme where Red Riding Hood is killed.

I believe that parents told these stories to their children to scare them into behaving properly. Fairy tales at this time did not seem to be for entertainment value, but instead to teach the children values and morals. For example, in Red Riding Hood, because she strayed from the path, the wolf was able to get to her grandmother’s house and devour her. I think this is a lesson to children that they need to listen to their parents and stay on the paths that they are told.

Children might also gain from this story that they are not to talk to strangers because those strangers could mislead them. I believe that parents were correct in telling their children these stories. At the time, I think morals and values were placed very high and children were expected to listen to their parents and behave. Another example that I can think of is parents would tell these stories to show their little girls how they were expected to behave. The story seems to be targeted at a little girl who did not listen and was lost in her world of picking flowers. I think this story was a way of parents getting their little girls to conform to society’s expectations. Word Count: 547

Childhood and the Two World Wars: Children in Nazi Germany

There were many ways that the Nazis tried to influence children and young people during World War II in Germany. One example is how the BDM, or the League of German Maidens, shaped and molded young girls at the time into ideal German women.

They did this by encouraging young girls to keep themselves healthy through good eating and physical exercise (Pine, 1999). The girls were expected to maintain a celibate lifestyle and later on marry an acceptable man and produce children for the Reich (Pine, 1999). In the BDM, the young girls were also taught that their bodies no longer belonged to them, but instead were the property of the state and it was their duty to carry on producing pure, Aryan children (Pine, 1999).

Another way that the Nazis influenced young children was through the change of the school curriculum. Textbooks were modified to include the Nazi slogans as well as Nazi propaganda (Pine, 1997). Examples of lessons from the period are songs involving loyalty to Hitler as well as stories about how children should help give back to the Reich (Pine, 1997). Some of the most deplorable things put into young children’s books were sensationalized pictures of Jewish children to help emphasize the superiority of the Aryan race (Pine, 1997).

It is very interesting that not only were children subject to racism through their textbooks, but also to the inferiority of people with special needs. For example, in an arithmetic book, there is a word problem asking children to determine how much it costs the government to care for crippled peoples (Pine, 1997). This would have taught children to shun those with physical and mental disabilities as burdens to the state.

I believe that the Nazis cared so much about regulating the thinking and behavior of children because they knew that this was the next generation. If the Reich was to continue to flourish, the children needed to be molded into acceptable German citizens. I think the Nazis wanted a group of people that they could easily influence as well. As adults, we often have preconceived notions of things and our opinions are not easily changed. Children can be easily influenced, especially if it is a teacher telling them it is so. I believe that children look up to teachers and are less inclined to doubt what they are told.

I think that being a child under the Nazi regime must have been very confusing. All of a sudden, children that you had played with before the Nazi regime are no longer allowed at your school and you are told not to speak to them. You are taught about how Jewish children and people are not to be trusted, even though you may have trusted them before. Your teachers are telling you that you need to ignore them and treat them as less than yourself. I think that many children would have just accepted what was happening as fact. I am sure that they did not dare to question what they were being told for fear of disappearing themselves. It must have been a very fearful childhood. Word Count: 518

Children’s view of war today and in the past

War has often been described as the most horrible thing for a child to experience in their young lives. It affects children in different ways depending on which side they are on as well as how they are impacted by the technology at the time. It can safely be argued that war causes children to grow up quicker than intended. Some of the prime examples that we have of children’s experiences during the war are through their diaries.

Depending on the era, war can impact children in a variety of ways, including their family lives and how they relate to their peers. This essay will explore how children view war beginning with World War I and extending to the Balkans War. This essay will also explore how children view war today and how it is similar and different from the views of the children in the past.

During World War I, many children were experiencing the ravages of war for the first time in their lives. Children were often forced to grow up quickly, especially when news came to the families that their fathers were dead or missing in action. One example is of a mother telling her young five-year-old child that he was now a man of the house (Winterman, 2007). It must be very difficult to imagine a child as young as five being told that he must take over the role of an adult that he may have barely known. It has been shown also that “some mothers found it impossible to tell their children of their father’s death and they were left to find out elsewhere” (Winterman, 2007).

This must have been very confusing for these children to be expecting a father to return and one never does. Unfortunately, the war impacted the mothers so greatly that they could not even tell their children that their father had been killed in action. These examples are from children who were in Great Britain during World War I. Even though the children were not directly in the war zone, they were still impacted by the war.

There were, however, children in the war zone that experienced the tragedies of it on a day to day basis. In Piete Kuhr’s diary, she describes being blamed by working-class adults for the war and the death of the soldiers (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006). It must have been very difficult for children in different classes to relate to each other. Kuhr was blamed by a woman who did not know anything about her. She later comes to the determination that the woman thought she was a Jewish girl (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006).

This determination is made after she hears her grandmother speaking about the boycotting of Jewish shops and she experiences anti-Semitic behavior from a boy at her school towards one of her friends, “Something has happened. I got in a fight with a boy because he was calling Sibylla Lowenthal “Jewish sow” (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006, p. 19). It can safely be argued that children did pick up on the things that were going on around them and we’re acutely aware of the societal changes at the time.

It can probably be assumed that the boy learned his behavior from a family member. With the diary of Kuhr, people today can see the inner thoughts of children at the time instead of assuming what they were thinking. Children were deeply affected by war. Kuhr experienced being a child during the First World War and adulthood during the second. She did not lose her views on war and continued to resist anti-Semitism into her adult life (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006).

In contrast to Kuhr, who was able to live her life without being targeted as an undesirable race, two children during World War II were subjected to the Nazis’ cruel regime. While Kuhr lived in relative safety during World War I, young Yitskhok Rudashevski was forced into hiding with his family. Although they hid for a while, eventually, he and his family were murdered by the Nazis (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006).

In his entries, there is hope; however it covers up a fear: “My second feeling today is that of strength and hope. I do not feel the slightest despair…I live confidant in the future…” (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006, p. 152). It seems like he displays an aura of bravery. He probably wrote this to reassure himself more than anyone else. There is little fear in Kuhr’s entries from World War I. She seems to have been living a good life with her family and has not had to worry about running from persecution. Another child at the time, Clara Schwarz, was forced into hiding due to Nazi persecution during World War II.

Thankfully, unlike poor Yitskhok’s family, her family survived in hiding during the war. However, her writings indicate a childhood stolen: “No electricity again. It is very depressing to sit with candlelight…Lately we have lost all hope of surviving” (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006, p. 161). During the years where Clara should have been attending school, going out with her friends, and perhaps dating other young men, she was stuck in a basement bunker living in constant fear. Clara’s experiences are more similar to Yitskhok’s than Kuhr’s. This shows that different classes and races of people reacted to war.

For people being targeted by the Nazis, their lives were full of fear and the unknown. For those that were not being targeted, they also suffered, but mostly from lack of food and general comfort items. However, in a study done sixty years after World War II, several psychologists noted that children of the era suffered greatly from post-traumatic stress disorder, regardless of whether they were being targeted or not (Kuwert, Spitzer, Trader, Freyberger, and Ermann, 2006). Most of the people surveyed noted flashbacks as one of their symptoms (Kuwert et al, 2006). This can be attributed to the loss of family and close relatives according to the study (Kuwert et al, 2006). This study shows that the reactions of children were similar.

The experiences of children in later wars were slightly different than those of World Wars I and II. During the Balkans War in the late 1990s, warfare techniques had advanced. In the diary of Zlata Filipovic, a girl growing up in Bosnia during the Balkans War, it can be seen that war has advanced with the dropping of shells on homes as well as sniper fire (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006). Her entries are very astute and observant about what is going on around her.

Unlike those of the children during World War II, she is living in the middle of a war zone and seeing dead bodies daily. Zlata laments in her diary that she should be living a normal childhood with her friends and going to school (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006). Even the lives of students at university were disrupted as they worked to assist in the gathering of data as well as assisting in the medical care of those that were injured (Gluncic, Pulanic, Prka, Marusic, and Marusic, 2001).

One of Zlata’s entries shows how things had changed over time, “…I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have water pouring out of a tap, what it’s like the shower…We wash dishes and clothes like in the Middle Ages” (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006, p. 217). This entry by Zlata shows a naïve girl. In comparison with the children during World War I and II, Zlata is not used to having running water. Some of the children in hiding during World War II had to survive with no running water at all and barely enough to bathe in. This shows how modern conveniences had become so commonplace that a child during the war would miss them considerably.

What is very interesting about Zlata’s diary is she can look back on historical events and relate them to her own life. For example, in a part of her diary, she writes that the people leaving Sarajevo is like the movies where she saw Jews leaving during World War II (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006). This is a very interesting comparison to make. It shows that despite there being about 50 years between these two wars, people are still doing similar things.

It is also interesting that she discusses the politics of the war as she understands it. This is much like the entries done by Kuhr at the beginning of her diary. Kuhr explains how the war began and why they are fighting with the rest of the world. Zlata does the same but says that she would do things differently if it were up to her (Filipovic and Challenger, 2006). It is very fascinating that there are so many similarities between the diary entries of a girl from World War I as compared to a girl from the Balkans War.

Interestingly, the young diarists’ views on war have changed little over the years despite being at the center of different wars. The children still felt the sting of loss and the hardships of being in a war-torn country. I wanted to compare how this has changed over time. In looking at how children react to war in the current climate, much of what they learn is impacted by the media (Carter, 2004). One child reacts by saying that this is the “real stuff…not the movies” (Carter, 2004, p. 67).

This is a child observing the war from an outside standpoint. He is not in the middle of the warzone like Zlata or forced into hiding like Clara because his life is at direct risk. However, he is aware of what war is and what it can do to people. This is comparable to the commentary by Kuhr and Zlata about how the wars started in their respective periods. Children today are aware of the reasons for war; however, they tend to be again influenced by their parent’s and peers’ perceptions.

This can be compared to Kuhr’s experiences with the young boy in the schoolyard. In all reality, children have viewed the war in the same ways as did children before them. They notice the changes that take place in people and see family members go away to war. It is relevant to point out that children today have compared war to what they see in the movies. It can be assumed that they do recognize the difference and know that war involves real people as opposed to actors.

Conclusion

In conclusion, war is never a pleasant experience for anyone, let alone children. I believe that it was put best in the study done about children experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder: “Children represent a highly vulnerable population, whose rights and needs are usually subordinated to the burden of war” (Kuwert et al, 2006). Children tend to pick up on the changes in people and society much more than we give them credit for.

Little has changed over the decades in regards to how children react to war situations. The only things that are different for these children are their access to modern conveniences and the types of warfare that they have experienced. Clara laments the lack of enough water to bathe in while Zlata laments the lack of a shower. It is a similar desire to be clean and lead a semi-normal existence in a war-torn society.

Clara experiences little direct warfare while Zlata’s town is shelled and sniper fire surrounds them. I do not think that these views will ever change based on the period. Their diaries are valuable first-hand sources of information. Without them, we would never be able to fully understand the thoughts of children during the war nor could we comprehend the full impact that the war has had on the children. Children have often forgotten in the grand scheme of war and these diaries provide a vital link to their feelings and thoughts. Word Count: 2,009

References

Carter, C. (2004). Scary news: children’s responses to news of war. Mediactive, 3, 67-84.

Filipovic, Z. and Challenger, M. (Eds.). (2006). Stolen Voices: Young People’s War Diaries from World War I to Iraq. Toronto, Canada: Doubleday Canada.

Gluncic, V., Pulanic, D., Prka, M., Marusic, A., and Marusic, M. (2001). Curricular and Extracurricular Activities of Students during War, Zagreb University of Medicine, 1991-1995. Academic Medicine, 76(1), 82-87.

Kuwert, P., Spitzer, C., Trader, A., Freyberger, H.J., and Erman, M. (2006). Sixty years later: post-traumatic stress symptoms and current psychopathology in former German children of World War II. International Psychogeriatrics, 1-7.

Rogers, P.M. (Ed.). (2003). Aspects of Western Civilization: Problems and Sources in History: Volume 2, Fifth Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Shore, H. (2000). The Idea of Juvenile Crime in 19th-Century England. History Today, 21-27.

Tatar, M. (Ed.). (1999). The Classic Fairy Tales: Text and Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Pine, L. (1997). Nazism in the Classroom. History Today, 22-27.

Pine, L. (1999). Girls in Uniform. History Today, 24-29.

Winterman, D. (2007). . BBC News Magazine. Web.

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