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Hoodless, Patricia A. “Spotting the Adult Agendas: Investigating Children’s Historical Awareness Using Stories Written for Children in the Past.” International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research 4(2) (2004).


This paper summarises an investigation of primary children’s understanding of the changing attitudes and values revealed in historical stories written at different times in the twentieth century. The investigation was a small scale case study, which used ethnographic methods, and produced qualitative data from small group discussions with children aged ten and eleven in two English primary schools. The choice of texts, drawn from a specifically English context, was intended to enable primary age children to understand familiar periods from the History National Curriculum. Findings suggest that children of this age were capable of identifying changing styles of presentation and different attitudes within historical accounts and stories written in different periods. Some children were aware how adult authors writing for children transmitted their attitudes and values through historical stories. The paper argues that such historical texts are excellent sources from which children can learn about the less tangible aspects of the past. It also argues that there are wider implications for the study of children’s conceptual awareness: children revealed very subtle understanding of chronology and change, as well as a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of how texts written for children are not only a product of the age in which they were written, but also a medium for the transmission of adult values and beliefs. It is suggested that further study of the use of such sources would enable a deeper understanding of how children acquire an awareness of these very important but less tangible aspects of the past.

International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research