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

The project (2013–2017) 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.

The project covered the period from the 5th century BC to the 12th century AD, with an emphasis on the 1st to the 8th century. We examined the period from both diachronic and synchronous perspectives, and investigated 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 philosophy and Christian, Jewish and Islamic thought, was one of the priorities of the project.

The focus of the project was based around three types of material:

  1. Early Christian apocryphal stories about the childhoods of Jesus and his mother Mary (The Infancy Gospels of Thomas and James),
  2. Works by elite writers (philosophical, theological, political) which reflect different notions about children and childhood, and
  3. Material and remains that in various ways document the lives and experiences of children themselves (children’s letters, papyrus documents, toys, stories etc.).

The 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 continuity and change in attitudes to children through the centuries, and sources were also studied with attention to the difference that gender made in the lives of children.

The original project description can be found here.

Children in the Ancient World and the Early Middle Ages: A Bibliography for Scholars and Students

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

The complete bibliography can be found here.

Published Apr. 13, 2010 4:13 PM - Last modified Mar. 27, 2020 1:50 PM