Nineteenth-Century Institutionalised Children on the Move. Lives after Care.

Gillian Lamb, University of Oxford

Institutionalised children offer a relatively rare insight into working-class lives. Yet the historiography of institutionalisation has typically ignored the rich data available on individuals, focusing instead on the policies and structures around institutional care. My research takes a different approach, one that puts the institutionalised child at the centre of the picture. Focusing on two large institutions in the South of England I am tracing 5 cohorts of 300 children in total (girls and boys) from the 1850s, 1870s and 1890s to consider the progress of their lives alongside those of their non-institutionalised siblings. Detailed biographical data from the institutional archives is combined with ever-expanding global digitised data from genealogical and other sources to create an individualised life course for each child. Many of these children emigrated within Britain’s Empire and their lives are also examined within the context of the new worlds in which they moved. One of the key challenges of the micro-historical approach is the question of representativeness. This is addressed by integrating the qualitative research with overarching quantitative data that encompasses a broad range of key metrics on the overall cohort of 5000 children. This allows the unexceptional nature of such children to be revealed and thus illustrates how the alternative data available to historians now can be used to examine questions of family and kinship; social class and mobility; poverty and welfare; and citizenship and empire within Britain’s working class.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 89. Children’s Navigation of Institutions and Institutionalization