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From the Garden to the Trenches: Childhood, Culture and the First World War
9-12 May 2012
Part of the Leverhulme International Network on “Approaching War”
Brock University, The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books and Trinity College, University of Toronto

For children growing up in the nineteenth-century ‘Golden Age’ of children’s literature, childhood was characterized as an enclosed, nurturing space, “a child’s garden,” or “kindergarten” as Wilhelm Froebel christened it in 1832; a place for cultivating imagination and play as in, for example, Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885). Garden mud and puddles were for planting and for playing – how difficult for the children growing up in those gardens to anticipate and imagine the muddy trenches of the First World War.

From the Garden to the Trenches – the second of three Leverhulme-supported conferences, marking the approaching centenary of the First World War – will focus on childhood, culture and war from the perspectives of the Americas and the Caribbean. The first conference – Sydney, Australia in December 2011 – will focus on the global south, and the third – Newcastle, UK – on England and Europe. Our aim is to produce a digital archive out of materials assembled during the three conferences.

We are delighted to announce that so far our confirmed keynote speakers include:

Deborah Ellis, author of The Breadwinner and other war stories
Linda Granfield, author of Remembering John McCrae
Margaret Higonnet (Connecticut), author of Nurses at the Front: Writing the Wounds of the Great War
Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse (the play of which is in Toronto in Spring 2012)
Paul Stevens (Toronto), author of Winston Churchill’s Military Romanticism

Suggested topics may include, in relation to the war and the Americas and the Caribbean:

  • National and global ideas of childhood and nationhood
  • Empire and its impact on recruitment
  • War in art, fiction, drama and music
  • The intersection of cultures of war and childhood cultures
  • War, empire and the colonial encounter
  • Lives of girls and women in relation to war
  • Concepts of ‘home’
  • The Boy Scout Movement and the call to war

We are tentatively planning for plenary-only sessions (panels and keynotes), and will give preference to panel proposals. Ideally, panels will consist of four speakers, each giving a 15-minute paper. Individual proposals are, however, also welcomed. Please submit 200-250 word abstracts. Some travel bursaries are available – see for more details.

Deadline for abstracts: 15 September 2011
Notification of outcome: 30 September 2011

Abstracts should be submitted via email to

CFP – From the Garden to the Trenches: Childhood, Culture and the First World War