Moving children: The history of child removal in historical perspective

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Date / time: 31 March - 1 April, All day

University of Leeds

Moving children: The history of child removal in historical perspective

The moving and removal of children – in and out of family, community and institutional care – became one of the most common ways by which nineteenth and twentieth states endeavoured to shape the identities, political loyalties, cultural affiliations and health of their subjects. This moving and removing of children cut across regimes from the authoritarian to the ostensibly liberal. It also crossed borders; moving children worked to constitute, concretise – and sometimes dramatically reconfigure –national, social and racial boundaries. Child removal also frequently combined state and private welfare and charity work, representing a novel space for state and non-state agencies to work together. They did so under banners as diverse as child rescue, social welfare, international development and humanitarian intervention.

Despite the importance of child removal, its comparative history remains underwritten. Accordingly, this workshop aims to forge a new network of historians who can bring the comparative study of child removal to prominence. It will do so by putting together historians of childhood studying a variety of countries and regimes with practitioners in child welfare today. By illuminating continuity and change in the practice and ideology of child removal across the twentieth century, our goal is to shed comparative light on the historical experience of child removal in order to better understand the relationship between interventions into family life in the present and the past.

Papers will address one or more of the following questions:

  • Why did states develop policies to move and remove children?
  • To what extent were national child removal policies influenced by practices in other countries?
  • How far did child removal policies overlap between liberal and authoritarian regimes?
  • How did changing ideas around the healthy or the normal family and child inform the everyday practice of moving children?
  • How did state and society work together to watch over families?
  • How did state officials classify children as requiring moving or removing?
  • To what extent were poor families and ideological enemies targeted for the moving of children?

We are especially keen to explore connections and comparisons across different regional and historical contexts and to consider the relevance of the history of child removal for child welfare work today. Presentations will be accessible to a non-specialist audience and there will be ample time for open discussion and considering future plans.

For further information please contact Dr. Peter Anderson, or Dr. Will Jackson,