Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Book Review: Children's Homes

Children's Homes: a history of institutional care for Britain's young. By Peter Higginbotham. Published by Pen and Sword (Oct. 17 2017)
ISBN-10: 1526701359; ISBN-13: 978-1526701350
Paperback $26.73 Cdn on Amazon
Kindle $18.58 Cdn.

Peter Higginbotham is best known for www.workhouses.org.uk/, a goldmine of information for anyone with ancestors who were in or connected to a British workhouse.

Most of us have a workhouse connection. We may not know it. Apparently UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had a great-great-grandfather who was "the despotic master of the Farnham workhouse." Even more have a connection to a children's home.

From 1552 and the founding of Christ's Hospital in London, to 2016 when its final chapter was written, Peter Higginbotham's latest book recounts the story of the means by which society dealt with orphaned and indigent children, and those abused by parents or guardians.

The first three chapters deal with the evolution of the "system"—the  term giving the impression of more organization than existed. Many children would have fallen between the cracks, especially in earlier times.

The heart of the book is chapters on the various organizations. Barnardo's, National Children's Homes, Waifs and Strays familiar because they migrated many children to Canada, merit their own chapters. Others relate to various specialized homes. The is a separate chapter on Emigration Homes covering some of the less prominent organizations who emigrated children.

If researching a particular child the chapter Children's Home Records will be one to turn to. To learn about their likely experience read the chapter Life in Children's Homes.
Some of the other material is detailed and more useful as reference for the family history researcher once they are able to narrow their interest.

There's also food for thought for the social historian interested in the way society ideas on the best way to deal with children who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances have evolved.

The book concludes with 10 pages of references and notes, an 6-page bibliography and 8-page index.

This blog post is based on a review copy received from the publisher.

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