Attitudes toward childhood and children in medieval Jewish society
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In 1960, Phillipe Ari8s published a controversial book entitled L'enfant et la vie familiale sous l'ancien régime. 1 The book was translated into English in 1962 and entitled Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life.2 Aries maintains that in western Europe until the sixteenth century, no one paid much attention to children during the enfances stage of childhood. (birth to age seven). This does not mean that all children in the Middle Ages were necessarily despised or neglected. Rather, the awareness of what distinguished a child from an adult was lacking and, as a result, there was no appreciation of childhood for its own sake.3 Citing evidence from iconography which depicted the "ages of children," the history of games and children's dress, and a vast array of medieval texts, Ariès argues that in medieval society, there was a complete lack of attribution of any special character to childhood.4 Parents did not accept children on their own terms, enjoy them or coddle them.5 There was also no attempt made by parents to inculcate self-control or supervise the young child's moral development.6 The new-born baby who had not yet acquired certain physical and intellectual skills was treated with indifference.7 The death of a small child was not a cause for great sorrow.8 Indeed, Prof. Lynn White, who accepts Ariès thesis, sees the relative indifference of adults toward children as directly related to the high infant and child mortality rate. It did not pay to invest great emotional capital in a child whose chance of survival was less than fifty percent.9 (from Introduction)
Kanarfogel, E. (1985). Attitudes toward childhood and children in medieval Jewish society. In Approaches to Judaism in medieval times, vol 2 (pp. 1–34). Scholars Press.
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