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Celebrating Child Performers of the 19th Century

This year, I’ve decided to blog each week on a different c19 child performer: 52 posts for 52 weeks, with perhaps a few additional posts thrown in for fun. While some of the children on my list are well-known among historians of theatre and childhood (e.g. Master Betty, Cordelia Howard, Charles Stratton), others are relatively obscure. In blogging on aspects of their theatrical careers, I hope to join scholars such as Robin Bernstein, Anne Varty, Gillian Arrighi, Victor Emeljanow, and Marah Gubar in calling attention to the  important role that children played in the formation of national and transnational theatre cultures throughout the nineteenth century. In particular, I’m interested in tracing the debates and controversies that arose in response to child performers as they crossed national and cultural borders. How did children serve as instruments of empire or nation-building projects? How or when did they challenge such instrumentalization? What do their different career paths suggest about shifting perceptions of the child in England, Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean (among other locations)? These are but some of the questions I hope to address this year.

In undertaking this project, I draw inspiration from the work of other historians who’ve used blogging and social media platforms to share their research and engage others in discussion. I realize that this is very much a work in progress and expect that I’ll learn a great dal along the way. So…let’s go. Onwards to Master Betty!

Further reading

Arrighi, Gillian, and Victor Emeljanow. Entertaining Children: The Participation of Youth in the Entertainment Industry. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Bernstein, Robin. Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights. New York University Press, 2011.

Gubar, Marah. Artful Dodgers: Reconceiving the Golden Age of Children’s Literature. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Varty, Anne. Children and Theatre in Victorian Britain. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.