Childhood in the seventeenth and eighteenth century

The seventeenth and eighteenth century saw a philosophical / psychological debate about how the mind was formed and stocked with ideas:

  • some philosophers argued that children were born with their mind as a blank page
  • this page must be written on – that is to say, the mind must be filled with knowledge, ideas and values, which, modified by experience, would equip children with what they needed to function as social beings
  • a different view, usually that of Christian thinkers, held that children were born in original sin and that their souls must be cleansed of that sin, often by quite stern measures, to make them fit for salvation; this is the view that lies behind Mr. Hubble's view of children as ‘naturally wicious'
  • in both these views, childhood was seen as little more than a preparation for adulthood, with little value as a period in the lives of individuals.
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