The First And Second Golden Ages of Children’s Literature

We are now in what’s known as The Third Golden Age of Children’s Literature. Naturally the first and second golden ages came before.

What are the main differences between books from the first and second golden ages?


(Note: Some say the first golden age ended at the turn of the century. Others are more specific. Marina Warner gives the specific years of 1950-1920.)

  • Great writers would team up with great illustrators
  • Industrial revolution led to advances in printing
  • The growing middle class increased their interest in education
  • Didactic, often in a religious sense
  • Reassurance that everything will turn out all right despite huge adversities
  • Duty, self-sacrifice, no complaining
  • Children do rather than think
  • Outside all day with no supervision
  • Proud of their class
  • Patriotic
  • Boys are stronger and bolder than girls
The Water Babies first golden age
It was thought that children could be taught to do the right thing by having the wrong thing done to them. Sort of like hitting a kid for hitting. This is from a bowdlerised version of The Water Babies published originally  1862-63
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