You Can Help Your Country

English children's work during the Second World War

Berry Mayall and Virginia Morrow

ISBN: 9781787356726

Publication: November 23, 2020

What is this?
First published in 2011, You Can Help Your Country: English children’s work during the Second World War reveals the remarkable, hidden history of children as social agents who actively participated in a national effort during a period of crisis. In praise of the book, Hugh Cunningham, celebrated author of The Invention of Childhood, wrote: ‘Think of children and the Second World War, and evacuation comes immediately to mind. Berry Mayall and Virginia Morrow have a different story to tell, one in which all the children of the nation were encouraged to contribute to the war effort. Many responded enthusiastically. Evidence from school magazines and oral testimony shows children digging for victory, working on farms, knitting comforts for the troops, collecting waste for recycling, running households. What lessons, the authors ask, does this wartime participation by children have for our own time? The answers are challenging.’ You Can Help Your Countryis a stimulating, entertaining and scholarly contribution to the history of childhood, prompting thought about childhood today and on children’s rights, as citizens, to participate in social and political life. This revised edition includes a new preface and illustrations, and offers an up-to-date reflection on the relevance of thinking historically about children’s work for global campaigns to end child labour. It is essential reading for academics, researchers and students in childhood studies, the sociology of childhood and children’s rights. Its engaging style will also appeal to anyone interested in social history and the history of the Second World War.

Berry Mayall is Emerita Professor of Childhood Studies at the UCL Institute of Education.

Virginia Morrow is Visiting Professor at the UCL Institute of Education, and Research Associate for Young Lives, Department of International Development, University of Oxford.

List of figures and tables
List of abbreviations
About the authors
Preface to the revised edition

1. Starting points
2. Children in social thought between the wars
3. Earners or learners? Work and school 1900–1939
4. Children in wartime
5. Younger children’s work: Doing their bit
6. Bringing in the harvest
7. Older children’s work: Serving their country
8. Children in organisations: Working for freedom
9. Closing points


‘Mayall and Morrow have performed an enormous service, not only in broadening our perspective of children to include their economic and social contributions to the war effort... but also in exploring both the nature of childhood” and the ambiguity surrounding adult–child relations at a time of national crisis (and beyond). Where the evacuee was confined to a specific social (children’s) space, the child worker, in vacating the classroom, implicitly frequents “adulthood”. In raising questions about the nature of children/childhood, this is a timely, relevant and accessibly written book, and is an ideal text for students in education, history and sociology.’
Professor Harry Hendrick, University of Warwick
‘Another major contribution to the sociology of childhood by two pioneers in the field. Drawing from a rich variety of previously untapped resources, including children’s own accounts of their lives during the Second World War, Mayall and Morrow document the extensive labour and other contributions to the war effort made by English children. Though focusing on a particular period of crisis... You Can Help Your Country makes a strong case for enabling children to speak for themselves, and to participate more fully in socially useful activities.’  
Sarane Spence Boocock, Rutgers University


Format: Open Access PDF

Edition: Revised edition

B&W line drawings, B&W photo/halftones, and colour photo/halftones

Copyright: © 2020

ISBN: 9781787356726

Publication: November 23, 2020

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