War and Childhood in the Age of the World Wars
Local and Global Perspectives
June 5-7, 2014
Conference at the GHI
Conveners: Mischa Honeck (GHI Washington), James Marten (Marquette University), Andreas Gestrich (GHI London), Arndt Weinrich (GHI Paris)
- Program (pdf; as of April 15, 2014)
Call for Papers
We are looking for presenters who can enrich our understanding of the place and role of children and youth in war during the first half of the twentieth century. The goal of our conference is to come to grips with a fundamental paradox: How was it possible for modern societies to reimagine childhood as a space of sheltered existence and mobilize children for war at the same time? And how did modern warfare disrupt or accelerate rites of passage in the realms of gender, sexuality, national loyalty, ethnic and racial identity, and military involvement? We ask these questions on the assumption that young people experienced war in ways that were age-specific and different from how adults endured it. Usually, these differences found some means to express themselves, and despite the devastation suffered by real children in wars, the power of youth as a symbol of renewal outlived them.
Rather than merely investigate adult representations of youth and childhood in war, we are just as much interested in uncovering the historical processes by which young people acquired agency as historical subjects. This means paying attention to the voices and actions of children in the different locales of modern war - from the home to the homefront; the bomb shelter to the battlefield; the press to the pulpit; the school to the street. On the level of representations, we want to examine how adult institutions (governments, civic organizations, social movements) utilized images of children for wartime propaganda. These images could be deployed for various purposes: to mobilize patriotism and popular support for the war effort; to discredit and dehumanize the enemy; but also to subvert the logic of escalating military and political violence.
We invite contributions that address the nexus of childhood, youth, and war across political and geographical boundaries. But we also encourage proposals from scholars whose research revolves around a group of people, a region, a nation, or a certain cultural space. We do this in the spirit of practicing a "connected history," a history that is aware of global influences on local events without losing sight of local particularities in an interconnected world. We want to attract historians specializing in various fields (military, political, social, economic, and cultural history) who can help us develop a comprehensive and exciting synthesis of the historiographies on war, youth, and childhood from roughly 1910 to 1950. We will give particular, but not exclusive, preference to proposals that focus on the following areas:
- Depictions of young people in war and antiwar propaganda;
- Children as casualties of war (death, disease, malnutrition) and the politics of emotion;
Education and Leisure:
- Youth organizations and war;
- Young people on the home front;
- Children as soldiers, partisans, prisoners, refugees, and resistance fighters;
- Military toys and war in children's games;
- Militarism and anti-militarism in schools;
- War in youth literature and popular culture;
- Childhood and war trauma;
- Narrations of war and youth in postwar politics and culture.
Please send a proposal of no more than 500 words and a short CV to
The deadline for submission is November 30, 2013. Participants will be notified by early January 2014. The conference, held in English, will focus on discussing 6,000-8,000 word, pre-circulated papers (due April 30, 2014). We intend to publish the contributions.
Expenses for travel and accommodation will be covered.