Shurlee Swain
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Margot Hillel
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The body of the nation
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The body of the child was placed within a familiar environment, rendered threatening by the new social, religious and moral meanings ascribed to it. In transposing the threat from the personal to the national, the literature rendered support for the child rescue movement a patriotic act. Rescue was thus constituted a 'wise and patriotic, as well as a benevolent act', providing the individual with 'self-respect' and the nation with a 'prosperous and productive' workforce in the future. Child rescuers developed a taxonomy of space in which geography determined destiny. The relationship drawn between the nation and the child enabled child rescuers to articulate a new concept of children's rights, creating a direct claim to citizenship which bypassed the property rights of the parent. The work begun by Dr Barnardo, Thomas Bowman Stephenson, Edward de Montjoie Rudolf and Benjamin Waugh was now recognised as essential for national survival.

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Child, nation, race and empire

Child rescue discourse, England, Canada and Australia, 1850–1915


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