The purpose of this chapter is to survey some of the most important social constructions of British childhood since the end of the eighteenth century in order to illustrate the historical variability of the concept. Such a brief account is unable to do little more than point towards the principal identities, and the attributable ‘prime movers of social change’ (Anderson, 1980:61). My hope is that a familiarity with these perceptions, as held by dominant interests within our society, will help to explain both the tenacity and the self-confidence of western interpretations of ‘childhood’. The focus here is on four related themes. First, the gradual shift from an idea of childhood fragmented by geography-urban/rural-and by class life-experiences, to one that was intended to be much more uniform and coherent; second, the rise and development of what historians refer to as the ‘domestic ideal’ among the nineteenth-century middle classes, which helped to present ‘the family’ as the dominant institutional influence on age relations; third, the evolution of an increasingly compulsory relationship between the State, the family and child welfare; and, fourth, the political and cultural struggle to extend the developing constructions (and reconstructions) of childhood through all social classes, to universalize it.