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Empire's Children
Child Emigration, Welfare, and the Decline of the British World, 1869–1967

$32.99 (C)

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  • Date Published: April 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316620304

$ 32.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • Between 1869 and 1967, government-funded British charities sent nearly 100,000 British children to start new lives in the settler empire. This pioneering study tells the story of the rise and fall of child emigration to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Rhodesia. In the mid-Victorian period, the book reveals, the concept of a global British race had a profound impact on the practice of charity work, the evolution of child welfare, and the experiences of poor children. During the twentieth century, however, rising nationalism in the dominions, alongside the emergence of new, psychological theories of child welfare, eroded faith in the 'British world' and brought child emigration into question. Combining archival sources with original oral histories, Empire's Children not only explores the powerful influence of empire on child-centered social policy, it also uncovers how the lives of ordinary children and families were forever transformed by imperial forces and settler nationalism.

    • Offers a definitive history of the child emigration movement, from its origins in the late nineteenth century through to its decline in the 1960s
    • Charts the evolution of ideas, reformers, and children between Britain and the settler dominions of Canada, Australia, and Southern Rhodesia
    • Combines archival sources with extensive historical research to include original interviews with former child migrants
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    • Winner of the 2015 Grace Abbott Book Award, Society for the History of Children and Youth

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Boucher's work reveals how ideas about empire and nation building have informed child welfare programmes well into the twentieth century.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'The book is well grounded in the recent extensive literature on ideas of the British Empire and 'Greater Britain' in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries … This book will probably not be the last word on the history of British child migration, but it is certainly the most comprehensive account to date.' Geoffrey Sherington, Journal of British Studies

    'Boucher has given us a quite complex narrative and analysis of both the practice and the discourse of child migration during the era of imperial decline.' H. L. Malchow, The Journal of Modern History

    'This is a well-researched and often moving book. It helps us to grasp the historically specific circumstances that made child emigration a political reality. And perhaps we are not so distant from these ways of thinking ourselves. As Boucher reminds us, current debates about the intercountry adoption underscore how the circulation of children (and controversies about the ethics therof) remains part of our present world.' Jordanna Bailkin, Victorian Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316620304
    • length: 306 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus. 1 table
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Poverty and possibility in the era of Greater Britain
    2. Developing empire, building children
    3. Upholding the banner of white Australia
    4. 'Defective' boys and 'problem' girls: selection standards in 1930s Australia and Southern Rhodesia
    5. From Imperial child welfare to national childhoods
    6. Growing up in the twilight of empire
    7. Conclusion: the problem of postimperial belonging

  • Author

    Ellen Boucher, Amherst College, Massachusetts
    Ellen Boucher is Assistant Professor of European History at Amherst College, Massachusetts. She received her PhD in Modern European History from Columbia University, New York in 2008, where she specialized in British Imperial History with a focus on oral history. Before joining Amherst, she held a tenure-track position at Furman University, South Carolina and also taught at Fordham University, New York and Columbia University. One of her articles,'The Limits of Potential: Race, Welfare, and the Interwar Extension of Child Emigration to Southern Rhodesia', The Journal of British Studies (October 2009), won the 2010 Neil Sutherland Biennial Article Prize from the Canadian Historical Association for best article on the history of childhood. Her research has also been funded by awards from the Council on Library and Information Resources (Mellon Foundation), and the Doris Quinn Foundation. She is currently beginning a project exploring the connections between imperialism, decolonization, and the growth of international aid directed at African children. The first product of that research is an article titled 'Cultivating Humanitarianism: the Save the Children Fund and the British Appeal for Enemy Children, 1919–23', in Brave New World: Democratic and Imperial Nation-Building in Britain between the Wars, edited by Laura Beers and Geraint Thomas (2012).


    • Winner of the 2015 Grace Abbott Book Award, Society for the History of Children and Youth

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