Shurlee Swain
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Margot Hillel
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The salvation of the empire
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A lack of concern about child-life, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) warned, could be the first indication of an empire sinking into decline. Child rescue, as an imperial endeavour, involved the transportation of ideas as well as children, establishing new norms for both the definition and the solution of the problems of child abuse and neglect across Britain and the colonies. Rescued children, in this discourse, were transformed from a liability to a resource. Race was deployed by advocates of emigration in both the sending and receiving countries. Maria Rye's shock points to the justification offered for child migration programmes: the contribution they made to the salvation of the race. The magazines of the child rescue organisations circulated across the empire, and subscription lists show a readiness of British settlers abroad to support the work at 'home'.

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Child, nation, race and empire

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


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