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date: 07 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter outlines how in modern Western history since the late seventeenth century the modern concepts of the child and childhood have evolved and how these images have increasingly entailed conceptions of the rights of the child as a human subject. These transformations eventually became the central affirmations of the human rights of all children, as they are articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in the best interests of the child. The foundations of the new images of childhood are prepared in the work of empiricist philosophy, the Enlightenment, the Romantic poets, and Victorian novels and are, in turn, connected to the reform movements against child labor and the innovations of childhood education in the nineteenth century with their emphasis that every child has a right to a humane and nurturing childhood. The arc of these developments also leads, in important part, to the establishment of such new disciplines as pedagogy, psychology, psychoanalysis, and social work with their concentrated focus on the child and childhood.

Keywords: John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Romanticism, child labor, Charles Dickens, kindergarten movement, child study movement, Janusz Korczak, childhood, children’s rights.

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