The Neil Sutherland Article Prize
This award honours the pioneering work of Canadian historian Neil Sutherland in the history of children and youth by recognizing outstanding contributions to the field. The prize is given out on a biennial basis under the auspices of the History of Children and Youth Group of the Canadian Historical Association.
Mona Gleason, "Avoiding the Agency Trap: Caveats for Historians of Children, Youth, and Education,” Journal of the History of Education (Vol. 45, no. 4, 2016): 446-59.
Gleason’s exploration of the scholarly roots, opportunities and limitations of the concept of agency in the history of children and youth offers a timely and compelling reflection. It effectively recasts the discussion around the “agency ideal” by laying out its pitfalls while pointing out new ways that the field may move forward in its efforts to engage more fully with the complexity of childhood. The committee was impressed by how Gleason skillfully uses a collection of family letters from the British Columbia Department of Education to explore new ways that the concept – and limitations – of children’s agency can be approached; mainly through empathic inference and a closer reading of age through the prisms of relational and power dynamics. Gleason’s masterful discussion of the lessons of similar debates in anthropology, women’s studies and the history of children and youth serves as both a historiographical roadmap and a discussion point for new ways to approach an essential question in the field.
Julia M. Gossard, “Tattletales: Childhood & Authority in Eighteenth-Century France,” Journal for the History of Childhood and Youth (Vol. 10, No. 2, Spring 2017): 169-187.
Gossard’s research on how children attending charity schools in Lyon and Paris, France, from 1689-1789 reported the immoral or illegal misdeeds of their parents, siblings, household members, and strangers deftly complicates the study of early modern French family power dynamics. Her use of charity and hospital school reports skillfully paints a nuanced picture of how French children and youth could challenge patriarchal power within a coercive system of surveillance of private life. The committee was impressed by Gossard’s nuanced use of school records, particularly in her discussion of children’s limited agency in navigating a broader system of social policing. Gossard’s empathetic yet rigorous examination of these sources provides a new layer of interpretation to the rich and influential historiography of this period in French history.
Magda Fahrni, “Glimpsing Working-Class Childhood Through the Laurier Palace Fire of 1927: The Ordinary, the Tragic, and the Historian’s Gaze,” Journal of the History of Children and Youth 8 (Fall 2015): 426-450.
Fahrni’s analysis of a deadly 1927 fire at a Montreal cinema creates a richly textured portrait of working-class childhood. Her innovative analysis of court cases, newspapers, and official investigations, including personal testimony, sheds new light on children’s independence vs. parental authority, the allure of commercial entertainment, and the changing perceptions of acceptable risk. The committee was impressed by Fahrni’s readable prose, engagement with the scholarly literature, and concept of voyeuristic empathy which should challenge historians of children and youth to think about their approach.
Jennifer Robin Terry, “‘They ‘Used to Tear Around the Campus Like Savages’: Children’s and Youth’s Activities in the San Tomas Internment Camp, 1942-1945” The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 5, no. 1 (Winter 2012): 87-117.
The actions and reactions of young people under strenuous conditions are the central pillars of Jennifer Robin Terry’s article “‘They ‘Used to Tear Around the Campus Like Savages’: Children’s and Youth’s Activities in the San Tomas Internment Camp, 1942-1945,” a methodologically innovative and important contribution to the history of childhood and youth.
Terry makes creative and insightful use of a wide range of evidence – from rules and structures to children’s games and food allotment, to shed light upon a neglected area of study: the place of children and youth in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.
Drawing upon both official documents and memoirs, Terry clearly demonstrates young people’s agency in this challenging context, showing that they both influenced and resisted the norms of camp life, even as they were themselves being shaped and governed by the restraints imposed by interned adults and their Japanese captors. The result is an engagingly written article which keeps children’s lived experiences at the forefront, while shedding important light on the wider intergenerational experience of internment.
Rachel Hope Cleves, “ ‘Heedless Youth’: The Revolutionary War Poetry of Ruth Bryant (1760-83).” William and Mary Quarterly 67, no. 3 (July 2010):519-548.
Cleves’ article, which explores the experience of girls and war is meticulously researched, insightful, and skillfully contextualized. As Cleves herself notes, “Largely excluded by their gender and youth from political assemblies, academies, and the army, girls left few textual clues about their beliefs.” Cleves weaves together the various threads of Ruth Bryant’s poetry and its themes of domesticity, gender, family and patriotism, finding a young girl’s voice in the historical record. The committee agreed that Cleves’ work is an original and exciting contribution to an understanding of the experiences of children and youth and war, and to the field of the history of childhood.
Ellen Boucher, “The Limits of Potential: Race, Welfare, and the Interwar Extension of Child Emigration to Southern Rhodesia,” Journal of British Studies 48 (October 2009): 914-934.
Boucher skillfully mixes narrative with interpretation, developing a well-crafted, engaging, accessible piece of scholarship. The committee was particularly impressed with the subtlety and range of Boucher's use of evidence. She deftly worked back-and-forth between her case study of the Rhodesia Fairbridge Memorial Association and larger developments in child welfare, child psychology, empire building, and other global processes of modernity. She accomplished this impressive feat without losing the thread or persuasiveness of the argument. Her discussion of how race and class hierarchies in Empire limit the "potential" of children has widespread implications in her particular study of British colonialism in Africa and in other historical contexts.
Rhonda L. Hinther, “ Raised in the Spirit of Class Struggle: Children, Youth, and the Interwar Ukrainian Left in Canada,” /Labour/Le Travail/ 60 (Fall 2007), 43-76.We found it very solidly researched, well-grounded in, and balancing of, diverse literatures, and useful in addressing the experience and decision-making of the young people themselves.Honorable Mention:Stephen Robertson, "'Boys, of Course, Cannot be Raped': Age, Homosexuality and the Redefinition of Sexual Violence in New York City, 1880-1955," /Gender & History/, 18, 2 (August 2006), 357-79.