When to Spare the Rod? Legal Reactions and Popular Attitudes Towards the (In)Appropriate Chastisement of Children, 1850-1910
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This article reflects on the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable violence through an examination of the corporal punishment of children, with a key focus on those standing in loco parentis rather than parents themselves. Through advice manuals and didactic literature, the debates are revealed which considered merits and demerits of the use of corporal punishment as opposed to moral persuasion as a way of inculcating necessary social lessons, intended to create good citizens. These manuals and the fiction are used, alongside newspaper reportage of court cases (heard for the most part in the summary courts, before magistrates – who themselves represented good citizenry) where school masters (and some mistresses) were summonsed on charges of assault against their pupils, to illuminate the reasoning behind the continuing acceptability of corporal punishment of children in Victorian and Edwardian England and Wales. The article argues that these incidents and the literary sources suggest that the rationalisation focused on the state of mind of the individual inflicting the punishment, and their motivations.
Rowbotham, J. (2017) 'When to Spare the Rod? Legal Reactions and Popular Attitudes Towards the (In)Appropriate Chastisement of Children, 1850-1910', SOLON Law, Crime and History, 7(1), p. 98-125.