During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, British society gradually began to see 'adolescence' as a distinct social entity worthy of concentrated study and debate. Jenny Holt argues that the social construction of the public schoolboy, a figure made ubiquitous by a huge body of fictional, biographical, and journalistic work, had a disproportionate role to play in the development of social perceptions of adolescence and in forming ideas of how young people should be educated to become citizens in an age of increasing democracy. With attention to an admirably wide range of popular books as well as examples from the periodical press, Jenny Holt begins with a discussion of the ideas of late-eighteenth-century social radicals, and ends with the First World War, when the more 'serious' public school literature, which sought to involve juvenile readers in complex social and political issues, declined suddenly in popularity. Along the way, Jenny Holt considers the influence of Victorian Evangelical thought, Social Darwinism, and the early-twentieth-century National Efficiency movement on concepts of adolescence. Whether it is shedding new light on well-known texts by Thomas Hughes and Rudyard Kipling, providing a fascinating discussion of works written by boys themselves, or supplying historical context for the development of the concept of adolescence, this book will engage not only scholars of childhood and children's literature but Victorianists and those interested in the history of educational practice.