Twenty years a-Growing: Conference Report
On the 9th and 10th of June, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin, hosted ‘Twenty years a-Growing: an international conference on the history of Irish childhood from the medieval to the modern age.’ This conference was the first of its kind in Ireland and explored various historical narratives of Irish childhood. Over fifty speakers participated in this highly successful conference, with speakers travelling from Canada, Israel, and the UK, as well as from Irish institutions. Papers were delivered in both the English and Irish languages.
The participants came from a variety of disciplines and the topics presented included cultural, literary, educational, social, and institutional history, along with the history of Irish childhood in the transnational context. Dr Lindsey Earner-Byrne (University College Dublin) delivered the first keynote address and provided an historiographical overview of Irish childhood to date. Leading expert on the history of childhood, Professor Hugh Cunningham (University of Kent) dealt with the dominant narratives of childhood and the extent to which these narratives reflect the reality of children’s lives past and present. Professor Pat Dolan (NUI Galway) emphasized the importance of family histories in our understanding of childhood in the past, and the final plenary speaker, Professor Declan Kiberd (University of Notre Dame) addressed the archaic and avant-garde nature of childhood in the literature of major Irish authors from Swift and Wilde to Yeats and Joyce.
Building on the success of this conference, a History of Irish Childhood Research Network has been established to facilitate future collaborative research on the history of Irish childhood. Further information is available at http://irishchildhood.wordpress.com The conference committee is also building up a bibliography of archival sources on the history of Irish childhood, which will soon be available on the internet.
The conference committee would like to acknowledge the financial support provided by the Society for the History of Childhood and Youth in the form of an outreach grant.
Conference Committee: Gaye Ashford, Marnie Hay, Ríona Nic Congáil (St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra), Sarah-Anne Buckley (National University of Ireland, Galway), Mary Hatfield (Trinity College Dublin), Jutta Kruse (University of Limerick).