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2024 Award Winners

The Society for the History of Children and Youth (SHCY) is pleased to announce the prizewinners for the best publications and dissertation on the history of children, childhood, or youth (broadly construed) published in 2023.




Frances M. Clarke and Rebecca Jo Plant, Of Age: Boy Soldiers and Military Power in the Civil War Era. Oxford University Press, 2023.


With their masterful book, “Of Age: Boy Soldiers and Military Power in the Civil War Era,” Frances M. Clarke and Rebecca Jo Plant have made a major contribution to the history of childhood and youth, while simultaneously adding a new dimension to the already rich and established  history of the American Civil War. Based on rigorous archival research, the authors have delved deeply into the phenomenon of underage soldiers in the Civil War, illuminating the complex interplay between social norms, familial expectations and the young boys’ own personal motivations towards underage enlistment. Co-written in the United States and Australia, the authors succeed in writing a captivating  and highly topical history of ‘child soldiers’. They artfully contrast present-day notions of young soldiers as victims and highlight how many saw themselves as “heroic authors of their own destiny.” We not only learn what propelled these roughly 10 percent of underage boys, both in the Union army and the Confederate forces, into military service, but also how they experienced a consequential war  as drummers, messengers, helpers, cooks, and active combatants. For their impressive decade-long scholarly collaboration, which resulted in a groundbreaking book, Frances M. Clarke and Rebecca Jo Plant fully deserve the 2023 Grace Abbott Prize. Unanimously, we judge this to be the best book in English on the history of children, childhood, or youth published last year.


Honorable Mention

Claudia Soares, A Home from Home? Children and Social Care in Victorian and Edwardian Britain, 1870-1920. Oxford University Press, 2023.

Claudia Soares’s A Home from Home? is an illuminating and insightful history of children’s social care, and we wish to recognize it with an honorable mention. Through careful engagement with a variety of sources, including personal correspondence, photographs, and case records, the book complicates the dominant image of institutions of residential care as oppressive and punitive. A Home from Home? reveals how, alongside contemporary beliefs in discipline and reform, notions of family, home, and belonging significantly shaped institutional philosophies and practices of care. In highlighting the experiences and perspectives of children and their relatives, the book is a thoughtful account of how children and their families actively negotiated the terms of their relationships with institutions of residential care.



Alfredo Luis Escudero, “The New Age of Andeans: Chronological Age, Indigenous Labor, and the Making of Spanish Colonial Rule,” Hispanic American Historical Review 103, no. 1 (2023): 1-30.

In this deeply researched and elegantly written article, Alfredo Luis Escudero analyzes how census records that precisely recorded the chronological age of the local population became a crucial technology for the consolidation of Spanish colonial rule in the Andes. As Escudero convincingly shows, the imposition of European notions of chronological age dramatically restructured the cycle of life for Andeans, transforming the previously unmarked age of 18 into a watershed year in the lives of male Andeans—the moment from which they were responsible for paying tribute to the colonial state. As a result, Escudero argues, the time before male youth reached the age of tribute was transformed into a distinct life stage reserved for learning and protected from hard labor. Engaging with recent scholarship on the significance of numerical age to modern governance, Escudero boldly revises both the geography and chronology of what he terms “the global transformation of the life cycle,” revealing how the documentation of age to control Indigenous labor in the Andes prefigured later bureaucratic innovations associated with the rise of modern childhood in Europe. Escudero uses age as a category of analysis to make major interventions in scholarship on colonial labor regimes and conflicts between Indigenous and colonial knowledge systems. This article deserves to be read not only by historians of childhood and youth but also by scholars interested in histories of colonialism, labor, and knowledge production more broadly.


Honorable Mentions

Catherine Larochelle, “Empire, Colonialism, and Place-Attachment in Young Minds: Quebec Students' Imaginative Travels in the Age of the New Imperialism,” The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Trans. Robert Twiss Vol. 16, No. 1, Winter 2023, pp. 70-91.

The committee would like to extend an honorable mention to Catherine LaRochelle’s engaging article, which examines how imperialism and settler colonialism influenced how white anglophone and white francophone high school students in Quebec, Canada acquired geographic knowledge and imagined the world and their place in it during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Through an analysis of a wide range of primary sources in French and English, including student composition and mapmaking assignments in geography class and beyond, as well as teachers’ assessments of their work, LaRochelle demonstrates how youth were taught to celebrate explorers’ tenacity and transformation of wild spaces, viewing people and places through a lens of racial and civilizational hierarchy. Moreover, LaRochelle borrows Edward Saïd’s concept of imaginative geography to show how students internalized these lessons both inside and outside of school, forming a romanticized and deeply attached view of their homeland. This was countered with dreams of making their mark, in gender appropriate ways, as adults in all corners of the world. LaRochelle’s compelling writing and scholarship illuminate the depth of youth engagement as conductors of imperialism and settler colonialism, providing insight into young people’s inner worlds and dreams.  

Crane, Jennifer. “Britain and Europe’s Gifted Children in the Quests for Democracy, Welfare and Productivity, 1970–1990.” Contemporary European History 32, no. 2 (2023): 235–53.

The committee would like to make an honorable mention of Jennifer Crane’s article. It offers a compelling exploration of the multifaceted landscape surrounding gifted children. By tracing the emergence of policy, voluntary efforts, and educational interest across Europe, Crane sheds light on the surge of attention toward gifted youth during the 1970s and 1980s. She examines transnational circles of researchers and voluntary campaigners who envisioned gifted children as agents of peace and liberal democracy. Simultaneously, Crane analyzes the contrasting view held by conservative press and policy in Britain—that gifted children could bolster national economic progress and productivity amid crises. Her analysis illuminates how these visions centered on parents’ roles in identifying and developing gifted offspring into transnational or national assets. From advertising to educational manuals, Crane unravels the intricate web of expectations places on gifted children. Importantly, she highlights how parents and children renegotiated and resisted these ideas, emphasizing the importance of centering the experiences of young people in our scholarship.




Chiara Candaele, “Exceptional Childhood: Legitimising Transnational Adoption in Postcolonial Belgium,” completed at the University of Antwerp.

The committee agreed unanimously that Candaela's thesis represents not only a significant contribution to the scholarship on transnational adoption--especially in its capacity to expand the chronological and geographical borders of the history of international adoption, in so doing nuancing the centrality of the United States to that work--but also enriches histories of childhood, youth, and postcolonial societies more broadly. This empathetic account of how transnational adoption took shape in postwar, postcolonial Europe is a fine example of how historical research informed by contemporary debates about international adoption, can speak illuminatingly to the present.

Honorable Mention

The committee also recognizes Heather Reel's dissertation “Our Babies: Child Multiples and the American Imaginary, 1934-1960” (Rutgers University) for its fascinating contributions to the fields of the history of (racialized) childhood, history of medicine, and cultural and Black studies.