Catalogue


Huck's raft : a history of American childhood /
Steven Mintz.
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004.
description
xi, 445 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0674015088 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004.
isbn
0674015088 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
5261001
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [387]-436) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Steven Mintz is the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of History at the University of Houston.
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
R. R. Hawkins Award, USA, 2004 : Won
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-07-01:
"Children have long served as a lightning rod for America's anxieties about society as a whole," writes historian Mintz, who successfully lays the foundation for his statement in this intriguing new book. Mintz revisits the treatment of children from the Puritan era up to the edge of the millennium, which he calls "The Unfinished Century of the Child, " showing that we have alternately vilified our offspring (the Puritans believed they were born in sin) and glorified them (Victorian parents saw them as pure and angelic). In addition, the roles children have assumed in the workforce have fluctuated with the needs of the era-economic expansion led to harsh child labor, while its aftermath, prosperity, led to an interest in child welfare. Supported with considerable scholarship, as evidenced by the lengthy bibliography, Mintz's thorough yet accessibly written study delves into the external forces that have shaped the lives of our young while also probing the internal developments in their collective consciousness. Highly recommended for academic collections.-Janet Sassi, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2005-07-01:
Mintz (Univ. of Houston, Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life, CH, Jan'89, 26-2866) has written an original interpretative synthesis, grounded in primary sources, of the history of childhood. He distinguishes three overlapping historical eras: the Colonial era (premodern childhood), when the young were viewed as adults in training; the mid-1750s to the 1950s (modern childhood), when children were viewed as innocent, malleable, and needing to be sheltered; and the 1950s to the present (postmodern childhood). The current era marks a superficial return to premodern childhood in that children are no longer considered innocent or naive, but differs radically because children are now independent consumers who participate in a semiautonomous youth culture. Within this periodization, Mintz skillfully emphasizes a number of important themes, especially the diversity of childhood in the US, which depends on a child's class, race, gender, ethnicity, or region. In doing so, he deflates numerous myths about the history of childhood, including the notions that childhood was carefree, families were stable, childhood was the same for all children, and that the US was particularly child friendly. This work will be indispensable to scholars and will enlighten the general public. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All libraries. E. W. Carp Pacific Lutheran University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-09-06:
No aspect of American life is as shrouded in idealizing myth as childhood. In this compelling work of historical synthesis, University of Houston history professor Mintz argues forcefully if not originally that for most of the past three centuries childhood has been the exception rather than the norm. Responding to the exigencies of colonial life, Mintz writes, the Puritans unsentimentally mentored children as "adults in training." With the explosive rise of an urban, factory-based economy in the mid-19th century, childhood first emerged as a discrete period of development. Limited, home-based instruction was replaced by compulsory instruction in public schools but not all children benefited. For most young people in the years after the Industrial Revolution despite the mixed results of reformers childhood meant grim factory or farm labor, poverty, loneliness, exploitation (economic and sexual) and often unspeakable cruelty. Poor, immigrant and black children suffered disproportionately as the class gap widened. More recently, Mintz recounts, childhood has been refined and extended into the phenomenon of protracted adolescence. That childhood has mostly been less than ideal is not surprising. What may be, for many readers, is Mintz's portrait of just how far from the ideal this country has been and perhaps continues to be in meeting the health needs, education and welfare of all its children. 36 b&w photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
Mintz revisits the treatment of children from the Puritan era up to the edge of the millennium, which he calls 'The Unfinished Century of the Child,' showing that we have alternately vilified our offspring (the Puritans believed they were born in sin) and glorified them (Victorian parents saw them as pure and angelic)...Mintz's thorough yet accessibly written study delves into the external forces that have shaped the lives of our young while also probing the internal developments in their collective consciousness.
Huck's Raft is a rich and fascinating study of the realities of children's lives--and adults' ideas about children and our responsibilities towards them--throughout our nation's history.
Huck's Raft is simply the best overview of the history of childhood in the US. Through masterful scholarship and lively writing, it persuasively exposes some widespread myths about family history, while telling fascinating stories about children's lives past and present. Mintz's work shows that historical understanding can guide our responses to the problems of children today.
With the vast number of political and cultural decisions made in America under the guise of 'thinking of the children,' a book like Steven Mintz's brilliant Huck's Raft, which actually does offer plenty of thinking about children, is long overdue. Mintz is aiming to write nothing less than a complete history of childhood in America, tracing kids' lives from the Puritan era to today and examining the roles they've played as workers, soldiers, pioneers, inspirations, burdens, consumers and citizens.
Were this simply a book of trivia about the years of childhood, it would be fascinating reading...However, this work is much more than a collection of curiosities. It is an ambitious attempt to retell the story of America with children as the focus of attention...This work of historical synthesis is likely to become a classic that future historians will be hard-pressed to surpass.
Steven Mintz's Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood offers an impressive and unprecedented synthesis of the relevant scholarly literature...[It] demonstrate[s] that childhood has never been a stable, innocent, or transcendent experience...Reflecting the prevailing literature, the book is a rainbow coalition of inclusion that arches over the panorama of American history. Anyone tempted to criticize the book as a 'clip job' misses the underlying importance of Mintz's signal accomplishment...To any parent trying to figure out what [kind of kid] he's got, the mundane manifestations of an innocent childhood are the clues to life. Mintz's book makes some sense out of this mystery.
The children of the past did possess something lost to their descendants of today: freedom. Once kids were allowed to ride their bikes all over town or idle away the summer in daydreams; they could fail a course or even a grade, and no one got overly excited about it; they might even make serious mistakes and find themselves pregnant or working on the line at Ford rather than studying lines of poetry at college. But now, in our test-driven, increasingly regimented educational system, we forthrightly aim to leave no child behind, which means that we leave no child alone. Slow learners must be sped up, dreamy kids must be made to focus, all must wear uniforms, and, eventually, all must have prizes--or at least AP courses. In the past, parents might exploit their kids as little more than indentured servants or simply ignore them. Today we are their chauffeurs and social secretaries...This is, then, a rich and stimulating book, revealing how much childhood has changed over the centuries and how much some things never change...I suppose that every generation of adults tends to feel, when regarding the young people around them, that the barbarians are at the gates. But really, there's nothing for us to worry about: One day our children will have children of their own. -- Michael Dirda "Washington Post" (12/12/2004)
No aspect of American life is as shrouded in idealizing myth as childhood. In this compelling work of historical synthesis, Mintz argues forcefully...that for most of the past three centuries childhood has been the exception rather than the norm...That childhood has mostly been less than ideal is not surprising. What may be, for many readers, is Mintz's portrait of just how far from the ideal this country has been--and perhaps continues to be--in meeting the health needs, education and welfare of all its children.
[An] often fascinating and massively documented exploration of four centuries of American childhood... Huck's Raft is a work of scholarly integrity and humanist zeal.
[A] provocative, anecdote-packed analysis of American parents and their progeny. From Puritans to postmoderns, we have shaped our kids to match shifting cultural mores and social desires.
[A] richly detailed study of how childhood in the US. has changed over time...Mintz uses history to debunk several myths--that childhood once was carefree, families were stable, and American childhood is the story of either steady progress or decline.
Steven Mintz' brilliant, wide-ranging, but remarkably concise study shows how complex an invention childhood has been in this country...The book is so good on the first 300 years or so of the story that it is somewhat surprising that Mintz is even more provocative on the last 50 years or so, especially on the most recent decade. It seems that no other account of Columbine or 'No Child Left Behind' has been as thoughtful or persuasive...This is history at its most instructive and engaging.
[Mintz] proposes to set the record straight in his sweeping study of American childhood that effectively synthesizes a large body of scholarship on its subject. The result is an engaging, sober and often poignant account of how adults have viewed and treated children and, equally important, how children's own experiences and life chances have been heavily influenced by economics, race and ethnicity...The compelling history of childhood he offers us is a valuable reminder that nostalgia for a golden age that never existed is not just misleading, but counterproductive.
[An] often fascinating and massively documented exploration of four centuries of American childhood..."Huck's Raft" is a work of scholarly integrity and humanist zeal.
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, July 2004
Publishers Weekly, September 2004
New York Times Book Review, October 2004
Booklist, November 2004
Washington Post, December 2004
Chicago Tribune, January 2005
Choice, July 2005
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
For more than three centuries, adults have agonised over raising children, while children have followed their own paths to development and expression. Steven Mintz gives us a comprehensive history of American childhood encompassing both the child's and the adult's tumultuous early years of life.
Main Description
Like Huck's raft, the experience of American childhood has been both adventurous and terrifying. For more than three centuries, adults have agonized over raising children while children have followed their own paths to development and expression. Now, Steven Mintz gives us the first comprehensive history of American childhood encompassing both the child's and the adult's tumultuous early years of life. Underscoring diversity through time and across regions, Mintz traces the transformation of children from the sinful creatures perceived by Puritans to the productive workers of nineteenth-century farms and factories, from the cosseted cherubs of the Victorian era to the confident consumers of our own. He explores their role in revolutionary upheaval, westward expansion, industrial growth, wartime mobilization, and the modern welfare state. Revealing the harsh realities of children's lives through history--the rigors of physical labor, the fear of chronic ailments, the heartbreak of premature death--he also acknowledges the freedom children once possessed to discover their world as well as themselves. Whether at work or play, at home or school, the transition from childhood to adulthood has required generations of Americans to tackle tremendously difficult challenges. Today, adults impose ever-increasing demands on the young for self-discipline, cognitive development, and academic achievement, even as the influence of the mass media and consumer culture has grown. With a nod to the past, Mintz revisits an alternative to the goal-driven realities of contemporary childhood. An odyssey of psychological self-discovery and growth, this book suggests a vision of childhood that embraces risk and freedom--like the daring adventure on Huck's raft.
Table of Contents
Prefacep. vii
Prologuep. 1
Children of the Covenantp. 7
Red, White, and Black in Colonial Americap. 32
Sons and Daughters of Libertyp. 53
Inventing the Middle-Class Childp. 75
Growing Up in Bondagep. 94
Childhood Battles of the Civil Warp. 118
Laboring Childrenp. 133
Save the Childp. 154
Children under the Magnifying Glassp. 185
New to the Promised Landp. 200
Revolt of Modern Youthp. 213
Coming of Age in the Great Depressionp. 233
Mobilizing Children for World War IIp. 254
In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhoodp. 275
Youthquakep. 310
Parental Panics and the Reshaping of Childhoodp. 335
The Unfinished Century of the Childp. 372
Notesp. 387
Indexp. 437
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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