Childhood across Cultures

  • Summer schools
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Application code SS-IR101
  • Starting 2019
  • Short course: Open
  • Location: London

Is ‘child labour’ always exploitative? Can modern schooling be harmful as well as helpful? Are there universals in cognitive development that override cultural traditions of childrearing? 

This course examines childhood in historical and social context, exploring the implications, for human development, of radically different understandings of child-care, child competencies and education.

The aim of this multidisciplinary course is threefold. Firstly, to explore and understand the implications of seeing childhood as a cultural construct; secondly, to investigate how different notions of childhood make a difference to actual children’s development; and thirdly, to explore the modern understanding of ‘child rights’ and its influence – both positive and negative – on children’s lives.

Through a variety of social-scientific materials (anthropology, psychology, history, sociology), the course will examine alternative understandings of childhood that can be found across space and time. What difference do these different understandings make to processes of cognitive development? Are there any universals of human development or parenting that can be discerned amidst this cultural diversity? What are the political and social implications for children’s everyday lives of particular ways of seeing and treating children? In addition to the course readings, students will view and analyse films, and will visit London’s Museum of Childhood.

Session: Two
Dates: 8 July – 26 July 2019
Lecturer: Dr Catherine Allerton


Programme details

Key facts

Level: 100 level. Read more information on levels in our FAQs

Fees:  Please see Fees and payments

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One examination and one essay

Typical credit**: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

*Assessment is optional

**You will need to check with your home institution

For more information on exams and credit, read Teaching and assessment



Programme structure

  • Infancy and parenting
  • Play across space and time
  • Children’s labour and economic worth
  • Education and inequality
  • Child soldiers and ‘street children’
  • Childhood in the city

Course outcomes

  • Describe and account for some of the historical and contemporary variety in ideas of childhood existing in human societies
  • Apply a variety of theoretical and comparative perspectives to material drawn from the ethnographic and historical record on children’s lives
  • Critically evaluate the notion of childhood enshrined in conventions on, and campaigns about, ‘child rights’
  • Think critically and creatively about issues related to childhood and children that they might encounter in the broader scholarly literature, in the mass media, or in their daily lives


LSE’s Department of Anthropology is world famous and world leading, ranked top Anthropology department in the UK in the Guardian League Tables 2018. Anthropology has been taught at the LSE since 1904. Many of the most important figures in anthropology's history (Malinowski, Firth, Leach, Gell, Bloch, and many others) have worked and/or studied at the LSE.

An emphasis on long-term anthropological fieldwork has always been a hallmark, and continues to be a strength, of the Department. Most members of staff, in addition to their responsibilities to students, conduct ongoing field research, which engages both with new research agendas and with well-established anthropological debates.

On this three-week intensive programme, you will engage with and learn from full-time lecturers from the LSE’s anthropology faculty.

Reading materials

H. Montgomery, 2008, Introduction to Childhood: Anthropological Perspectives on Children’s Lives, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell;

N. Scheper-Hughes and C. Sargent (eds), 1998, Small Wars: The Cultural Politics of Childhood, Berkeley: University of California Press;

D.F. Lancy, 2014 (Second Edition), The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings, Cambridge University Press.

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice

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