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Duration: 1 hour

Medievalist Dr Stephen Baxter takes a fresh look at the Middle Ages through the eyes of children. At a time when half the population was under eighteen he argues that, although they had to grow up quickly and take on adult responsibility early, the experience of childhood could also be richly rewarding. Focusing on the three pillars of medieval society - religion, war and work - Baxter reveals how children played a vital role in creating the medieval world.

Last on

Thu 17 Oct 2013 00:00 BBC Four

  • Dr Stephen Baxter is a Reader in Medieval History at King’s College, London.

    Dr Stephen Baxter is a Reader in Medieval History at King’s College, London.

    This has been an exciting project to work on. It has given me a completely new perspective on the medieval world. My research is mainly concerned with the origins and consequences the Norman Conquest - a world of power politics, dominated by adults. So the programme gave me a chance to look at some extraordinary, and often very moving evidence for the first time.

    The history of medieval childhood is also a new and dynamic field of research. Very little was written about it until the 1960s, when a pioneering book was published arguing that the concept of childhood didn’t exist in the medieval period - children were just mini adults compelled by uncaring parents to enter the adult world long before their bodies matured. Since then, a rapidly growing body of research has transformed the subject. It turns out there is abundant evidence that the concept of childhood was understood and respected by parents who clearly loved their children.

    That is not to say that the experience of childhood was similar to our own. In the medieval period, children were precious in more ways than one: they were also a valuable resource. And by exploring how this resource was deployed – in homes, fields, towns, monasteries, castles and so on – many of the realities of medieval life are brought vividly into focus.

    So for me the programme is a tribute: to the millions of children whose contribution to our history was as profound as it is still widely unknown.

  • Pembroke Castle

    Pembroke Castle

    At Pembroke Castle 13 year old Margaret Beaufort gave birth to a future king of England. He would become the founder of the Tudor dynasty, Henry V11.

  • Stephen Baxter visits Wearmouth-Jarrow Monastery

    Stephen Baxter visits Wearmouth-Jarrow Monastery

    Stephen Baxter visits Wearmouth-Jarrow Monastery, the home of the Venerable Bede who wrote the first history of the English people.

  • Stokesay Castle in Shropshire

    Stokesay Castle in Shropshire

    Stokesay Castle in Shropshire has one of the best preserved manor houses in England. Young boys would have come here to be servants, to find a career and to do some social climbing.

  • Book List

    • Medieval Children - Nicholas Orme

    • The King's Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby - Michael K. Jones and Malcolm G. Underwood

    • Medieval England: A Social History 1250 to 1550 - Jeremy Goldberg

    • Knight: The Medieval Warrior's (Unofficial) Manual - Michael Prestwich

    • Childhood in Anglo-Saxon England - Sally Crawford

    • Growing up in Medieval London - Barbara A. Hanawalt

Credits

Presenter
Stephen Baxter
Presenter
Stephen Baxter
Director
Dick Taylor
Director
Dick Taylor
Series Producer
Mary Sackville-West
Series Producer
Mary Sackville-West
Executive Producer
Helen Thomas
Executive Producer
Helen Thomas

Broadcasts

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