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Tiny Voices From the Past: New Perspectives on Childhood in Early Europe (completed)

The project studied the lives of children and attitudes to childhood at a formative stage of European culture: Antiquity and the Early/High Middle Ages.

Boys and girls in different positions. Photo.

Children playing ball games. Marble, Roman artwork of the second quarter of the 2nd century AD. Provenance unknown. Louvre Museum, Paris, France. Campana Collection; purchased in 1861. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen (2009) Source: Wikimedia Commons.

About the project

The Project Tiny Voices from the Past (2013-2017) studied the lives of children and attitudes to childhood in European contexts. It covered the period from the fifth century BC to the twelfth century AD, but with an emphasis on the period from the first to the eight century AD. 

It was directed by the Department of History of Ideas at the University of Oslo, and involved one Project Director, one postdoctoral researcher, two PhD students and c. 50 associated researchers. The project produced three edited volumes, PhD and master dissertations, a number of articles and book chapters as well as material disseminated in media.

The original project description (pdf).

Purpose

The project set itself three tasks: 

  1. To explore important aspects (cultural, social, material) of children's lives and reality in this period, and, as far as possible, from a "children's perspective". 
  2. To examine the perceptions about children and childhood that can be found in different sources, in which most of the material reflect adult views.
  3. To relate these insights to modern perceptions about children and childhood by means of hermeneutics and the history of tradition.

As for methodology, we have made use of two approaches: 

  1. To study the sources – both the well-known and the less familiar – with a view to what kind of perceptions about children and childhood they reflect.
  2. To explore different kinds of sources with a view to find traces left by children themselves (toys, drawings, letters, inscriptions etc.).

We have also wanted to contribute to the methodological development in these areas.

We have explored the topic of the project from both diachronic and synchronous perspectives, with a view to the interaction between, on the one hand, ideas and mentalities, and on the other hand material and social conditions. The study of the interface and differences between cultural traditions, such as Graeco-Roman thought and Christian, Jewish and Islamic thought, has been important to the project. Above all, the project has valued inter-disciplinary approaches.

The material has consisted of sources that have been much studied for other purposes (such as historical, litterary and religious texts) and others that have been less studied (inscriptions, laws, archeological material etc.). Particular attention has been given to the apocryphal childhood gospels about Jesus and Mary (The Infancy Gospel of Thomas and The Protoevangelium of James). This material has been studied with a view to discover children and childhood in the sources, whether they speak directly of children or use metaphors taken from the domain of childhood.

Particular attention has been paid to continuities and changes in attitudes to children through the centuries, and sources were also studied with an awareness of the difference that gender (girl/boy) made in the lives of children. Among our sources, we have for example looked into apocryphal infancy gospels, hagiographical writings, papyri, letters, and historical, philosophical and literary texts.

We have also wished to make use of these and similar perspectives on modern childhood history, something which is reflected in the associated project "Nordic Childhoods 1700–1960."

Financing

The Research Council of Norway and the University of Oslo.

Duration

2013–2017.

Background

The way in which a society deals with its marginalised groups can be seen as an indicator of its degree of humanity. Thus, studies in the status of such groups can reveal central features in a society's perceptions of humans and their value. During the last four decades or so this has been clearly shown in research on groups that have often been victims of disparagement and stigmatisation, such as women and sexual, social or ethnic minorities.

One group that until recent years has received limited attention in scholarship is children. There are several reasons for this, but one is obvious: Children are not able to assert themselves on their own. During the last two decades, however, interest in the study of children has increased greatly. Both in the public debate and within a broad range of sciences much emphasis has been put on issues related to children, such as the autonomy of children, their formation, living conditions and rights, and on cultural ideas about children and childhood as a stage of life. This is a very welcome development, considering that children at all times have constituted a "major minority" – it is only high time that they be given their part in the history books.

Results

The project has contributed to new findings in its field, much thanks to studies of sources from a wide range of genres and social strata. Many of these sources had previously been understudied from a childhood perspective (e.g. philosophical texts); others had not been studied at all (e.g. Islamic consolatory texts on deceased children). The project has been intent on viewing children from an agency perspective, i.e. as subjects with key social functions who themselves have contributed in shaping their own life and the life of others.

In some cases the project has contributed to highlight historical and cultural differences in perceptions of the child as a human being and of childhood as a stage of life, and moreover called attention to how these perceptions are connected with ideas of human beings in general (e.g. children as incomplete human beings or even children as human ideals).

In addition to the focus on Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the project has, in connection with the project Nordic Childhoods, also produced an edited volume on perceptions about childhood in the Nordic countries in the modern era, 1700–1960: Nordic Childhoods 1700–1960: From Folk Beliefs to Pippi Longstocking.

The project held its end conference 23–25 August 2017. Several Norwegian and international participants contributed with presentations, with a good audience present during the days of the conference.

Evaluation

The Research Council of Norway published in 2017 an evaluation report of the humanities in Norway, based on material from February 2016. The project received an excellent assessment (score 5).

The evaluation of the Research Council of Norway (pdf).

Bibliography

In 2003, Ville Vuolanto began work on a bibliography project under the auspices of the University of Tampere. Since then, scholarship on ancient and early medieval childhood has continued to flourish, and the bibliography has been expanded from covering works by historians and classicists to include scholarly contributions from art history, archaeology and, in particular, Biblical and early Christian studies.

An up-to-date version (Jan. 2018) of this bibliography is available, currently counting 2351 entries. The bibliography will be updated annually. Those interested are more than welcome to propose additions and corrections. These can be sent to Ville Vuolanto at ville@vuolanto.fi.

Download the complete bibliography (pdf)

Introductory Bibliography (pdf)

Publications

Main publications from the project

Aasgaard, Reidar, 2009. The Childhood of Jesus: Decoding the Apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock. 


Aasgaard, Reidar, Cornelia Horn, and Oana Maria Cojocaru (red.). 2018. Childhood in History: Perceptions of Children in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. London and New York: Routledge. 


Aasgaard, Reidar, Marcia J. Bunge, and Merethe Roos (red.). 2018. Nordic Childhoods 1700–1960: From Folk Beliefs to Pippi Longstocking. London and New York: Routledge.


Cojocaru, Oana. 2016. Between Ideal and Ordinary: Representations of Children and Childhood in Byzantine Hagiography (Ninth to Eleventh Centuries). Oslo: University of Oslo. [diss.] 


Laes, Christian, and Ville Vuolanto (red.). 2017. Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World. London and New York: Routledge. 


Schaanning, Espen. 2015. Barneridderne. Baden-Powell og den norske speiderbevegelsen. Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk. 


Vukovic, Marijana. 2017. Childhood in Context: Translations of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas in Different Christian Traditions. Oslo: University of Oslo. [diss.] 


Vuolanto, Ville. 2015. Children and Asceticism in Late Antiquity: Continuity, Family Dynamics and the Rise of Christianity. London and New York: Routledge. 

Complete list of publications

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2014a. "Apokryf barndom – jenter og gutter i senantikke barndomsevangelier." Klassisk Forum, 68–79.

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2014b. "Hva er et barn? Kunst, kultur og barndommens historie." Kunstløftet, 4–6 

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2014c. "Kvinnedagen, Legeforeningen og reservasjonsretten.Dagsavisen - Nye Meninger 

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2014d. "Vestens barndomshistorie, sett fra USA – Paula Fass (red.), The Routledge History of Childhood in the Western World (Routledge, London/New York, 2014)." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 26: 150–152.

Aasgaard Reidar. 2015a. "Bokomtale av Sharon Betsworth: Children in Early Christian Narratives. London: Bloomsbury, 2015."Teologisk Tidsskrift 4: 453–456.

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2015b. "Growing Up in Early Constantinople: Fifth-Century Life in a Christian City from a Child's Perspective." In Children and Family in Late Antiquity. Life, Death and Interaction edited by C. Laes, K. Mustakallio, and V.Vuolanto, 135–167. Leuven & Walpole: Peeters.

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2016a. "Ikke barn – ikke voksen: Ung. (Temaintroduksjon, Apollon)." Apollon: Forskningsmagasin for Universitetet i Oslo, 22–23.

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2016b. "Ottosen gir rom for ulovlige holdninger. (Innlegg som svar på intervju med Espen Ottosen, informasjonsleder i Norsk Luthersk Misjonssamband, om fysisk avstraffelse av barn)." Vårt land, 20.

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2015c. "The Bible and Children." In Oxford Bibliographies, edited by Heather Montgomery. New York: Oxford University Press.

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2017a. "How close can we get to ancient childhood? Methodological achievements and new advances." In Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World, edited by Christian Laes and Ville Vuolanto, 318–331. London and New York: Routledge.

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2017b. "The Protevangelium of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas: Orthodoxy from Above or Heterodoxy from Below?" In The Other Side: Apocryphal Perspectives on Ancient Christian “Orthodoxies”, edited by Tobias Nicklas, Candida R. Moss, Christopher Tuckett, Joseph Verheyden, 75–97. Göttingen and Bristol, CT: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Aasgaard, Reidar. 2018a. "Childhood in 400 CE: Jerome, John Chrysostom, and Augustine on Children and Their Formation." In Childhood in History: Perceptions of Children in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Cornelia Horn, and Oana Maria Cojocaru, 157–73. London and New York: Routledge.

Aasgaard, Reidar, Cornelia Horn, and Oana Maria Cojocaru, eds. 2018b. Childhood in History: Perceptions of Children in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. London and New York: Routledge.

Aasgaard, Reidar, Cornelia Horn, and Oana Maria Cojocaru. 2018c. "Introduction." In Childhood in History: Perceptions of Children in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Cornelia Horn, and Oana Maria Cojocaru, 1–18. London and New York: Routledge.

Aasgaard, Reidar, and Marcia J. Bunge. 2018d. "Introduction." In Nordic Childhoods 1700-1960: From Folk Beliefs to Pippi Longstocking, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Marcia J. Bunge and Merethe Roos, 1–14. London and New York: Routledge.

Aasgaard, Reidar, Marcia J. Bunge, and Merethe Roos, eds. 2018e. Nordic Childhoods 1700-1960: From Folk Beliefs to Pippi Longstocking. London and New York: Routledge.

Cojocaru, Oana Maria. 2016. "Barn av Bysants". Morgenbladet.

Cojocaru, Oana Maria. 2016. "Between Ideal and Ordinary: Representations of Children and Childhood in Byzantine Hagiography (Ninth to Eleventh Centuries)." PhD dissertation, History of Ideas, University of Oslo. Oslo: 07 Oslo Media.

Cojocaru, Oana Maria. 2017a. "Everyday lives of children in ninth–century Byzantine monasteries." In Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World, edited by Christian Laes and Ville Vuolanto, 247–264. London and New York: Routledge.

Cojocaru, Oana Maria. 2017b. "Mellom det ideelle og det ordinære: representasjoner av barn og barndom i bysantinske hagiografier (fra det niende til det ellevte århundre)" i Salongen Nettidsskrift for filosofi og idéhistorie.

Emilsson, Eyjólfur Kjalar. 2018. "Children and Childhood in Neoplatonism." In Childhood in History: Perceptions of Children in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Cornelia Horn, and Oana Maria Cojocaru, 142–56. London and New York: Routledge.

Falkeid, Unn. 2018. "Voci puerili: children in Dante's Divine Comedy." In Childhood in History: Perceptions of Children in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Cornelia Horn, and Oana Maria Cojocaru, 273–289London and New York: Routledge.

Hodne, Ørnulf Andreas. 2018. "The Child in Norwegian and Scandinavian Folk Beliefs." In Nordic Childhoods 1700-1960: From Folk Beliefs to Pippi Longstocking, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Marcia J. Bunge and Merethe Roos, 17–39. London and New York: Routledge.

Kartzow, Marianne Bjelland. 2018. "Slave Children in the First-Century Jesus Movement." In Childhood in History: Perceptions of Children in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Cornelia Horn, and Oana Maria Cojocaru, 111–26. London and New York: Routledge.

Krefting, Ellen Marie. 2017. "Barndomshistorier: Forskergruppe gir et helt nytt bilde av barns liv og rolle i tidligere epoker.Morgenbladet. 

Laes Christian, Katarina Mustakallio, and VilleVuolanto, eds. 2015. Children and Family in Late Antiquity. Life, Death and Interaction. Leuven & Walpole: Peeters.

Laes, Christian and Ville Vuolanto. 2016. "Household and Family Dynamics in Late Antique Southern Gaul." In Mediterranean Families in Antiquity: Households, Extended Families, and Domestic Space, edited by S. Hübner, and G. Nathan, 258–282. Malden NJ and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Laes, Christian, and Ville Vuolanto, eds. 2017. Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World. London and New York: Routledge.

Laes, Christian, Katariina Mustakallio, Ville Vuolanto. 2015. "Limits and Borders of Childhood and Family in the Roman Empire." In Children and Family in Late Antiquity. Life, Death and Interaction, edited by Christian Laes, Katariina Mustakallio and Ville Vuolanto, 1–12. Leuven: Peeters Publishes.

Markussen, Ingrid Margareta. 2018. "The Household Code: Protestant Upbringing in Denmark–Norway from the Reformation to the Enlightenment." In Nordic Childhoods 1700-1960: From Folk Beliefs to Pippi Longstocking, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Marcia J. Bunge and Merethe Roos, 40–57. London and New York: Routledge.

Pudsey April, and Ville Vuolanto. 2017. "Being a niece or nephew: children’s social environment in Roman Oxyrhynchos." In Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World, edited by Christian Laes and Ville Vuolanto, 79–96. London and New York: Routledge.

Roos, Merethe. 2018. "Children, dying and death. Views from an eighteenth century periodical for children." In Nordic Childhoods 1700-1960: From Folk Beliefs to Pippi Longstocking, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Marcia J. Bunge and Merethe Roos, 241–253. London and New York: Routledge.

Rørvik, Thor Inge. 2018. "The Child in the Early Nineteenth-Century Norwegian School System." In Nordic Childhoods 1700-1960: From Folk Beliefs to Pippi Longstocking, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Marcia J. Bunge and Merethe Roos, 147–162. London and New York: Routledge.

Schaanning, Espen. 2013a. "«Halvdød av frost, men levende og beredt». Speiderbevegelsen som disiplineringsprosjekt." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 25: 63–81.

Schaanning, Espen. 2013b. "Speiderbevegelsen sett innenfra." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 25: 160–164.

Schaanning, Espen. 2015a. "Hvis skolematematikken ikke fantes." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 27: 85–99.

Schaanning, Espen. 2015b. "Matematikk i mengder." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 27: 192–197.

Schaanning, Espen. 2015c. "Militær oppdragelse. Da speiderbevegelsen kom til Norge." Tidsskrift for kulturforskning 14: 26–41.

Schaanning, Espen. 2015d. "Om å disiplinere tenkningen." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 27: 134–138.

Schaanning, Espen. 2015e. "Om å komme i form i uniform : legenes rolle i norsk speiderbevegelse." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 27: 41–51.

Schaanning, Espen. 2015f. "Speiding og religion." Kirke og kultur, 396–418.

Schaanning, Espen. 2015. Barneridderne. Baden-Powell og den norske speiderbevegelsen. Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk.

Schaanning, Espen. 2016a. "Dagens skoletenkning." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 28: 144–150.

Schaanning, Espen. 2016b. "Den nye barnehageforståelsen." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 29: 103–113.

Schaanning, Espen. 2016c. "Den store skolifiseringen." Klassekampen, 14–15.

Schaanning, Espen. 2016d. "Giskes skolefilosofi." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 28: 103–113.

Schaanning, Espen. 2016e. "Matematikk til hverdags." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 29: 121–123.

Schaanning, Espen. 2016f. "Med skylapper på." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 28: 151–157.

Schaanning, Espen. 2016g. "Skolematte til besvær." Morgenbladet. Schaanning, Espen. 2016h. "Skolens mål og mening." Molo idehistorisk studenttidsskrift, 30–43.

Schaanning, Espen. 2016i. "Skolerefleksjoner." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 28: 123–124.

Schaanning, Espen. 2017a. "Ånden som rår." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 29: 95–103.

Schaanning, Espen. 2017b. "Skolen og humaniora." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 29: 87–94.

Schaanning, Espen. 2017c. "Heldagsskolens pris." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift 29: 128–135.

Schrumpf, Ellen. 2017. "Children and Their Stories of World War II: A Study of Essays by Norwegian School Children from 1946." In Nordic Childhoods 1700-1960: From Folk Beliefs to Pippi Longstocking, edited by Reidar Aasgaard, Marcia J. Bunge and Merethe Roos, 205–219. London and New York: Routledge.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2013a. "Children, pledging of." In The Encyclopedia of Ancient History (online edition), edited by Roger Bagnall. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2013b. "Elite Children, Socialization and Agency in the Late Roman world." In The Oxford Handbook of Childhood and Education in the Classical World, edited by Judith Evans Grubbs, Tim Parkin and Roslynne Bell, 580–599. New York: Oxford University Press.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2013c. "Family Relations and the Socialisation of Children in the Autobiographical Narratives of Late Antiquity." In Approaches to the Byzantine Family, edited by Leslie Brubaker and Shaun Tougher, 47–74. Birmingham: Ashgate.

Ville Vuolanto. 2013d. "Review of R. Laurence and A. Strömberg (eds.), Families in the Greco-Roman World." Journal of Hellenic Studies 133: 254–255.

Ville Vuolanto, Sari Katajala-Peltomaa. 2013e. Lapsuus ja arki antiikissa ja keskiajalla. Helsinki: Gaudeamus.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2014a. "Children in the Roman World: Cultural and Social Perspectives. A Review Article." Arctos 48: 435–450.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2014b. "Fjerne fedre, sterke mødre? Foreldre-barn? forhold I senromerske overklassefamilier." Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift (2): 13–21.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2015a. "Autobiography and the Construction of Elite Childhood and Youth in Fourth– and Fifth Century Antioch " In Children and Family in Late Antiquity. Life, Death and Interaction, edited by C. Laes, K. Mustakallio and V. Vuolanto, 309–324. Leuven & Walpole: Peeters.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2015b. Children and Asceticism in Late Antiquity: Continuity, Family Dynamics and the Rise of Christianity. Farnham: Ashgate.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2015c. "Children and Work. Family Strategies and Socialisation in the Roman and Late Antique Egypt." In Agents and Objects. Children in Pre–Modern Europe, edited by K. Mustakallio and J. Hanska, 97–111. Rome: Institutum Romanum Finlandiae.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2016a. "Child and Parent in Roman Law." In Oxford Handbook for Roman Law and Society, edited by P. J. du Plessis, Clifford Ando, and Kaius Tuori, 487–497. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2016b. "Parenting in Late Antiquity: Gendered Roles in Ideology and Everyday Life." Patristica Nordica Annuaria 31: 33–51.

Vuolanto, Ville. 2017. "Experience, agency, and the children in the past: the case of Roman childhood." In Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World, edited by Christian Laes and Ville Vuolanto, 11–24. London and New York: Routledge.

Ville, Vuolanto, Reidar Aasgaard, Oana Maria Cojocaru 2018. Children in the Ancient World and the Early Middle Ages. A Bibliography (8th c. BCE 8th c. CE).

In the media

Aasgaard, Reidar. “Ikke barn – ikke voksen: Ung”. Apollon 4 (2016), s. 22-23.

Aasgaard, Reidar.  Hva er et barn? Kunst, kultur og barndommens historieKunstløftet, s. 4-6 (27.08.2014).

Aasgaard, Reidar. Antikkens og middelalderens minste: Barna verden glemte. Apollon 4 (2015), s. 20-25. (05.11.2015)

Aasgaard, Reidar. “Finner fram glemte barn: Forskningsprosjekt ved Universitetet i Oslo kaster lys over barns hverdag fra antikken og fram til 1900-tallet”. Klassekampen, s. 28-29.   (16.08.2017)

Aasgaard, Reidar. “Guds sønn på skolebenken”. Vårt Land, s. 1 og 14-16. (24.08.2017)

Cojocaru, Oana Maria. "Barn av Bysants". 

Cojocaru, Oana Maria. “Mellom det ideelle og det ordinære: Representasjoner av barn og barndom i bysantinske hagiografier (Fra det niende til det ellevte århundre)

Krefting, Ellen. "Barndomshistorier: Forskergruppe gir et helt nytt bilde av barns liv og rolle i tidligere epoker.Morgenbladet (22.09.2017)

Vuolanto, Ville. "Slavebarn fraktet Romerriket rundt." (10.12.2015)

Published Aug. 30, 2021 10:53 AM - Last modified Sep. 1, 2021 1:09 PM