chapter  1
23 Pages

Where have we come from?

ByAl Aynsley-Green

Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily. The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awake. Nicholas Orme in his wonderful book on medieval children shows that during the Middle Ages a concern for the well-being of children was expressed for the first time. Children were seen to be different to adults and had their own culture. John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau are key philosophers, with Locke arguing that a child's mind, far from being a source of evil as in some aspects of the Christian tradition, was a tabula rasa or blank slate on to which it was the responsibility of adults to write. The prevailing public view of childhood in eighteenth-century England was complex. Instead of being their custodians, adults often regarded their children as millstones around their necks. Many were abandoned. They were, quite literally, left out to die.