The Voices of Children and Adolescents in the Archives

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In this chapter, we examine whether the voices of the many children who appear in the records and minutes held in the archives and who have so far been silent or silenced can be found. We shed light on these aspects in two different arenas of children’s lives – their school and their home – where physical and mental abuse of children and teenagers could take place. In other words, when examining the range of legitimate punishment and illegal abuse of children aged 0–18, we look at these ‘everyday spaces’ in which the majority of children lived. In the two arenas of this chapter, we look at the encounter between citizens (parents and children) and authorities (schoolteachers, school commission and police). We study the written sources of this encounter – that is the moment of fact creation according to Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s theories of archival silences – and its consequences for the moment of later fact retrieval. First, we look at the punishment of schoolchildren by teachers in the nineteenth century. We meet children and parents in their encounter with local school authorities when children, and especially their parents, believed that the teacher had exceeded his authority. This section illustrates, too, the level of punishment required before corporal punishment of children was seen as a problem and, when it was, by whom. Second, we go back a hundred years in time to take a closer look at corporal punishment of children inside the family and meet families who were subjected to police intervention because of domestic dispute. Our analysis focuses on the participation of children in conflict-affected families. In the final section of our chapter, we raise in our conclusion the question of the challenges facing the archives when adult children are met by the voices of the past and the potential influences on the future moment of fact assembly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArchival Silences : Missing, Lost and, Uncreated Archives
EditorsMichael Moss, David Thomass
Number of pages22
Place of PublicationLondon; New York
Publication date11 May 2021
Article number10
ISBN (Print)978-0-367-43189-1
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-003-00361-8
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2021

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