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OU on the BBC: The Invention of Childhood ARCHIVE

Updated Friday, 22nd November 2013

The invention of childhood is a major 30 part history series exploring British childhood and the experience of British children.

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Children in tent - Corbis Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Corbis Written by Professor Hugh Cunningham, a leading academic in the field, and Michael Morpurgo, the hugely popular children’s writer who also presents the series, this is the first ever chronological history of British childhood.

Childhood is one of the subjects of our time, but since every child and every childhood is different, the vast majority of what is written or said on the subject is no more than anecdotal. This authoritative series explores the history of childhood in Britain over the last thousand years. Using the widest range of original sources - coroners’ reports and court records, newspaper articles and official documents, nursery rhymes and songs, letters and diaries - the series explores the key historical events and movements which have had an impact on childhood. It also looks at the private lives of individual children from the past.

Its overarching conclusion is that childhood has changed dramatically over the centuries, but that children are - and will probably always be - very much the same.

The Invention Of Childhood was first broadcast from the 25th September, 2006 on BBC Radio 4. For further broadcast details, and to listen again where available, please visit

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