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In the articles of this special issue, we seek to find different methodological tools for studying these children and the different institutional practices that have marginalised them. Second, we seek to identify methodological and ethical dilemmas that need to be taken into account when studying histories of children who have been living on the margins of past societies, or those who have left only fragmentary traces in the existing historical records and archives.

These issues include, for example, practices related to naming and labelling historical subjects, problems of interpreting fragmentary sources produced by controlling authorities, and difficulties in aiming for child-centred perspectives. By addressing these issues, we wish to create a discussion about the methodological and ethical premises of historical research in general. Methodological and ethical questions appear more clearly when studying marginalised people and delicate topics, but should be equally important for all aspects of history of education.

For example, historians dealing with sources containing classified information are forced to think about and reflect on ethical issues such as those addressed in the articles by Adrian Bingham, Lucy Delap, Louise Jackson and Louise Settle, as well as by Kaisa Vehkalahti in this special issue, regardless of their topic. Concerns about ethics and the narration of history are essential for all historians, not only historians of education and childhood. Furthermore, the articles in this special issue show how methodological and ethical questions cut across geographical boundaries: researchers working in different countries face similar challenges.

The themes of the articles encompass a wide temporal and geographical focus, covering issues related to Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. When exploring the hidden history of marginalised children and young people, historians often have to rely on fragmentary sources that offer only glimpses into the experiences of the children and young people themselves.

Or, they have to combine multiple sources that shed light on the same issue, as Adrian Bingham, Lucy Delap, Louise Jackson and Louise Settle have done in their collaborative project aiming to chart social, legal and political responses to child sexual abuse in England and Wales across the twentieth century. The research team examined criminal justice statistics, newspaper press reports on cases that today could be termed child sexual abuse, as well as archival material.


In their article they discuss the variety of methodological and ethical dilemmas they faced in the project, such as the gaps and silences in the archive, most problematically in relation to the voices and experiences of the survivors themselves. However, an examination of these textual traces allowed them to construct an archaeology of the past, and to uncover, identify and analyse those moments when knowledge of what we now term child sexual abuse broke the surface and entered the public sphere.

Gaps and silences in the archives are also the focus in the article by Kaisa Vehkalahti. Documents produced by controlling authorities and professionals are one possible source of information for historians studying marginalised groups of people who have left no written sources of their own in the public archives. Sometimes, the authoritative texts are the only sources available. What kinds of methodological dilemmas do researchers encounter when analysing documents such as police reports, medical statements or child protection case files?

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Vehkalahti discusses the possibilities and limitations involved with using administrative archives in the history of childhood, using as her example the Finnish child protection case files of the s—s. While showing that archives created for administrative interests and purposes, like child welfare records, are shaped through and through by power relations, she acknowledges the importance of these archives. Today, humanistic and social research in general is faced with tightening research-ethical regulation.

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It is not self-evident that historians will gain access to archival sources in their original, uncensored form. Sometimes, the ethical and methodological approaches can be in conflict. For example, the aim of finding the voices of the children of the past, microhistorical interest in the everyday life of ordinary people and marginalised groups, and a quest for intimate and personal stories from the past may be fundamentally in conflict with tightening ethical regulations set to protect the privacy of people of the past.

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What are the consequences if certain delicate topics or classified sources are closed to research, Vehkalahti asks? From the viewpoint of historical research, it is important to ask what kind of picture we would have of the past if it were not possible to discuss such delicate issues as child protection, family violence, abuse or discrimination — or if the discussion of these kinds of topics were possible only through statistical presentations.

Would it be only joyful, happy and harmless stories of content middle-class families that history of childhood consisted of? View all notes also became an important principle in historical studies. This has resulted in a range of important works in which children and young people have been introduced in history of childhood, 13 13 See for example Stephen Humphries, Hooligans or Rebels? View all notes in their own right rather than simply as passive objects of educational institutions, etc.

However, opening historical perspectives to the agency of children of the past is more than challenging if the traces of their actions and the echoes of their voices have already disappeared, and there are no children available to interview or observe.

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What is often left for historians is adult memoirs and the scarce sources produced by children that have only occasionally been preserved in the archives. View all notes This is a conversation in which historians of education and childhood need to be engaged, as Mona Gleason argues in her article. Gleason elaborates on how age, gender, class, sexuality, ability, race, legitimacy and illegitimacy impact on relationships between children themselves, children and family members, and children and people outside the nuclear family.

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This case of historical abuse is contrasted with a similar tragic death of a foster child in , also in Australia. Both cases involved incidents that likely involved older children residing in the same household. Instead of holding individual children or adults accountable for what happened, Musgrove detects the systematic failures that allowed these tragedies. Discussion concerning the possibilities for addressing the voices and agency of children is closely connected to the above-discussed issue of how to generate a coherent history out of fragments of the marginalised childhoods that rest in the archives.

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