Au revoir les enfants : wartime evacuation and the politics of childhood in France and Britain, 1939-1945
Title: Au revoir les enfants : wartime evacuation and the politics of childhood in France and Britain, 1939-1945
Author: DOWNS, Laura Lee
Citation: History workshop journal, 2016, Vol. 82, No. 1, pp. 121-150
ISSN: 1363-3554; 1477-4569
Few people in France today remember the wartime evacuation of children from Paris. But in 1938-40, the evacuation of urban schoolchildren and other “useless mouths” from likely targets of bombing held a central place in French plans for the “passive defense” of the civilian population. Moreover, the size and duration of such large-scale child migration schemes would only increase after the defeat and Occupation, as (allied) bombing raids over industrial cities like Ivry-sur-Seine or Boulogne-Billancourt put these children at risk once again. Why did an event that holds such a central place in British memories of the Second World War leave so little trace in public memories of the war in France? This article explores the public debates that arose around wartime evacuation in Britain versus France with an eye to analyzing the deeper convictions about relationships among families, children and the state that underpinned two very different ways of understanding the nature and needs of children in mid-twentieth century Europe and the relationship of those needs to understandings of children’s present or future citizenship.
Published: 10 August 2016
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