Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 120–139 | Cite as

“A Prostitution Alike of Matter and Spirit”: Anti-War Discourses in Children’s Literature and Childhood Culture Before and During World War I

Original Paper


Histories of the First World War have regularly implicated children’s literature in boys’ eagerness to enlist in the first two years of that conflict. While undoubtedly the majority of children’s books, comics and magazines did espouse nationalistic, jingoistic and martial attitudes, there were alternative stories and environments. Looking at the publications, organisations and educational establishments that opposed the war and resisted the Germanophobia that began to dominate public discourse at the start of the twentieth century casts new light on some of the challenges and dilemmas facing a proportion of boys as they decided whether or not to join up. Additionally, the fact that there were alternative discourses is a reminder that not all readers would have responded in the same way to the same texts. Three areas are considered: children’s stories and pamphlets produced by Quakers and peace societies; left-wing publications, especially those associated with Socialist Sunday Schools; and two of the first progressive schools in Britain.


Pacifism Peace societies Progressive schools Socialist Sunday Schools Quakers Conscientious Objectors 



Several people have helped me in the preparation of this article. Josef Keith from the Library at Friends House, London, advised me on pacifist Quaker writing for children, and Dr. Madelyn Travis made a preliminary examination of some Quaker materials. Tara Sutton and her colleagues at the Working Class Movement Library and staff at the People’s History Museum were helpful and hospitable. Andy Simons of the British Library generously shared his expertise on pacifism and literature. Brian Rance, Archivist of King Alfred School, Natalie Wood, Archivist-Librarian at Abbotsholme School, and Jenny Woodland, Archivist and Trust Administrator at Bootham School welcomed me into their archives, gave thoughtful advice and fact-checked. Finally, Jane Rosen of the Imperial War Museum has been a regular sounding board, advisor and resource as this project has developed.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of English Literature, Language and LinguisticsNewcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

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