Childhood: An Early Modern View.

Essay by alexfishburnHigh School, 11th gradeA+, December 2005

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Child-rearing was an evolving practice within the English upper class from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. A new adult view of children as mature, fragile and inherently good led to changes in the nursing, care, and discipline of English, aristocratic children.

In the 16th century, much in accordance with the Puritan doctrine, children were seen as naturally evil beings. As stated by Robert Cleaver, a Calvinist Minister. Children were "... wayward and impulsive... inclined to evil."(Doc. 1) This is no surprise because Calvinists believed in pre-destination leaving little room to either hell or heaven. While a minister may have such negative view points, other members of English society had similar experiences. Lady Jane reflected on her childhood to be one of a negative upbringing "... sharply taunted with pinching and bobs... I think myself to be in hell."(Doc. 10) Adult practices to their children in the 16th Century were in fact themselves wayward and hellish, adults thought "...they

must correct and sharply reprove their children for saying or doing ill." As suggested by Robert Cleaver in (Doc.1) But not only ministers thought these acts would be effective with children even Christian men thought this. Bartholomew Batty author of The Christian Man's Closet wrote "... cast them on the ground and spurned and kicked them like dogs."(Doc.11) this shows all adults of all different religions, and positions in society, thought severe beatings were the best ways to discipline their children. These were religious ways to get children in line.

However, the enlightenment religious beliefs of the 17th century and the Anglican Church brought about a new and differing view of children. Offspring were effectively blank-slates and, left to their own devices, happy and benevolent. As stated by John Earle an Anglican minister "...His soul yet a blank paper unscribbled with observations...