Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood

Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood

by Steven Mintz
Pub. Date:
Harvard University Press


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Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674015081
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 11/28/2004
Pages: 464
Product dimensions: 6.52(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.45(d)

About the Author

Steven Mintz is Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin and Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning.

Table of Contents

1Children of the Covenant7
2Red, White, and Black in Colonial America32
3Sons and Daughters of Liberty53
4Inventing the Middle-Class Child75
5Growing Up in Bondage94
6Childhood Battles of the Civil War118
7Laboring Children133
8Save the Child154
9Children under the Magnifying Glass185
10New to the Promised Land200
11Revolt of Modern Youth213
12Coming of Age in the Great Depression233
13Mobilizing Children for World War II254
14In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhood275
16Parental Panics and the Reshaping of Childhood335
17The Unfinished Century of the Child372

What People are Saying About This

Steven Mintz's remarkable and comprehensive book provides the first important synthesis of childhood in American history. Learned and rich in detail, it will become indispensable for all those who want to know more about children's experiences over the past 400 years.

John R. Gillis

Steven Mintz's Huck's Raft is the most comprehensive, culturally sensitive history of American childhood ever written. It illuminates in fascinating detail the variegated experience of the nation's children, but it is equally successful in revealing the mentalities of the adults who have shaped childhood over time. This book is sure to become the standard in the field"
John R. Gillis, author of A World of Their Own Making: Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values

Paula Fass

Steven Mintz's remarkable and comprehensive book provides the first important synthesis of childhood in American history. Learned and rich in detail, it will become indispensable for all those who want to know more about children's experiences over the past 400 years.
Paula Fass, author of Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America

Marian Wright Edelman

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.
Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund

Frank F. Furstenberg

Huck's Raft is a breath of fresh air. This engaging and compelling account of the history of childhood in America is a tonic by a first-rate historian that is both scholarly and beautifully written. A must read for all those concerned with our youth today and in times past.
Frank F. Furstenberg, author of Managing to Make It: Urban Families and Adolescent Success

Linda Gordon

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.

Linda Gordon, author of The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction

Stephanie Coontz

At last, a synthesis of the scattered research on the history of youth. Meticulously researched and engagingly written, Mintz's book is sure to become a classic.
Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

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