The Kids Aren’t All Right: Historians and the Problem of Childhood

In a complement to the 2020 AHR Roundtable “Chronological Age: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis” (125, no. 2), this AHR Exchange focuses on the history of children and childhood. Sarah Maza presents a critical review essay, highlighting the limiting factors in the expanding field of childhood studies. Children, she observes, produce few sources of their own voices, have limited agency, and as individuals and as a group soon outgrow their subaltern status—they grow up. Robin P. Chapdelaine, Nara Milanich, Steven Mintz, Ishita Pande, and Bengt Sandin—historians representing diverse geographical, theoretical, and methodological perspectives on the history of children and childhood—react to Maza’s observations by bringing up important methodological questions about subjecthood, agency, and modernity. Maza’s rejoinder reflects on these questions and on the possibility of age-based historical agency.