However swiftly it passes, youth is always with us, a perpetual passing phase, an apprenticeship to the myriad ways of the world, subject of panegyrics and diatribes, romances and cautionary tales from antiquity to our day. This two-volume history is the first to present a comprehensive account of what youth has been in the West and what it has meant through the ages. Brought together by Giovanni Levi and Jean-Claude Schmitt, a company of gifted historians and social scientists traces the changing character and status of young people from the gymnasia of ancient Greece to the lycées of modern France, from the sweatshops of the industrial revolution to the crucibles of Nazi youth.
Monumental in its scope, minute in its attention to detail, A History of Young People takes us into the sensational rituals surrounding youth in Roman antiquity (such as the Lupercalia, with its nudity and whipping) and into the chivalric trials awaiting the privileged young of the Middle Ages. Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan and Michel Pastoureau explore the elusive question of what defines youth, a concept that over time has reached from infancy to the age of forty. Elliott Horowitz and Renata Ago consider the young in the context of the family--within the different worlds of European Judaism and Catholicism through the Renaissance. Sabina Loriga takes us through three centuries of military experience to temper and complicate our assumptions about the youthful face of war. Michelle Perrot focuses on working-class youth, and Jean-Claude Caron on the young at school. The obedient and the rebellious are here, the cherished and the sacrificed, the children catapulted into adult responsibility, the adults who have yet to forsake the protections of childhood. What emerges in this history as never before is a vast, richly textured picture of youth as a changing constant of culture, society, economics, politics, and art, and as a uniquely complex experience of acculturation in every life.
The studies [A History of Young People in the West] contains are interesting, and they have the great merit of making the work of some notable Italian and French scholars accessible to an Anglophone public. They are well translated, preserving the ornateness of the originals… Collectively, the lasting impression these volumes leave is of the exploitation of innocence, and the control exerted by those in authority—church, state or parents—over the lives of children growing up.
A History of Young People in the West...contributes numerous insights to the growing literature on social and family history.
Youth is a social construct; it is also a biological state. It therefore always shares some characteristics across cultures, for example the onset of early sexual maturity, while also reflecting each society's different expectations. Social class and gender will be crucial too in determining how these expectations are experienced by young people. So, given this model of what we understand by 'youth', a two-volume history of young people can only be a highly ambitious project...The editors of these two volumes and their translators are to be congratulated for providing some fascinating reading.
[Provides] valuable insights on the literary, artistic, and legal material on youth in selected times and places and in illuminating prevailing cultural values.
One of the most fascinating features of the 17 essays, and introduction, that make up these two volumes is the predominance of that anxiety, from ancient Greece to Fifties American culture, to bring the young within the ideological embrace of the polis, or state.
- 464 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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