Join History PhD student Emma Wyse for her Public Lecture at the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle.
In 1940 M. P. Richardson, a child evacuee from England, kept a diary of their journey to South Africa. Amidst documenting sightings of porpoises and flying fish or reporting how many times a girl named Shirely had been seasick (8 times), Richardson’s entry on Friday September 27 stands out. It’s only two words: “Nothing Happened.”
What are we to make of this expression of absence? Were there no fish to see? Were no children sick? What does it mean to a child not only to record the events in their life, but to make note of the absence of events as well? What does it mean to take sources produced by children seriously?
Children are prolific creators, and yet their creations are rarely seen by historians as credible historical documents. Too often we dismiss the words of children as products of fantasy or expressions of nonsense. Looking at a wide range of child produced sources from the evacuation of British children 1938-1945, this lecture will argue that our understanding of the past is necessarily incomplete if we do not take sources produced by children seriously, regardless of how opaque or mysterious such sources may be.