Mending a Hole in the Cultural Memory: Forgotten Radical Children’s Books Published in Britain between 1920 and 1950

Author: Kimberley Reynolds (Newcastle University)

The dominant image of Britain in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s is largely the product of a small group of writers (for example, T.S. Eliot, Stephen Spender, Evelyn Waugh) who concocted a potent emotional cocktail from ingredients including survivor guilt, disappointment that they had missed being part of the action, anger at the futility of the “war to end war,” and disillusionment with modernity, which runs through their work. Their feelings were undoubtedly widely shared at the time, and the image of Britain as a place of crisis, decline, pessimism, and anxiety persists to this day in the work of historians and literary critics. Recently, for example, Richard Overy’s The Morbid Age: Britain and the Crisis of Civilization, 1919-1939 (2009) paints a picture of Britain during these decades as a place fixated on the possibility that modernity and war will be fatal to civilization. Alexandra Harris’s Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper (2010) similarly subscribes to the view that this was a time of “watching, waiting, fearing.”[1] Looking specifically at representations of young people, Jed Esty’s Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development (2012) focuses on how—as the empire was being dismantled, British industry was being overtaken, and the arts and sciences were postulating the impossibility of achieving coherent selfhood—writers depicted a generation of “frozen youth,” with young people unable to complete the passage to maturity. According to Esty, the motif of frozen youth becomes a defining feature of the arts of this period:

[…] the novel of development starts to fixate on a pathology that marks the perceived obsolescence of the nation: the trope of frozen youth, the stunted individual who cannot or will not grow up. Peter Pan may spring to mind, but think as well of the dilated adolescence of Dorian Gray, Conrad’s Jim, Woolf’s Rachel Vinrace, and Stephen Dedalus.[2]

In their different ways, each of these books is detailed and probing, but they also ignore a significant aspect of the years in question—that is, the extent to which those who looked to the Left offered an energetic and optimistic alternative to anxiety and morbid fears, not least in writing for young people. Esty writes about texts in which characters are trapped in a perpetual adolescence, unable to make relationships, to become successful in business, or to make a mark on the world. The novels he discusses are the works history has chosen to remember, but there were counter-narratives, many of which were directed at the young with the very aim of ensuring they did not become stunted in the way Esty describes.

Just as critics and historians have put forward a rather one-sided view of the arts and letters for adults produced between 1910 and 1950, so the history of children’s literature has for a long time dismissed these years as a fallow period for children’s publishing in Britain. Children’s books and periodicals from this period are accused of many faults, from the poor production values of annuals and bumper books to the failure of writers and illustrators to engage with the radical thinking that characterized much public debate and artistic experimentation.[3] These failings can be found in much of what was produced for children and young readers, but there was also a sustained movement among left-wing writers and publishers to ensure that at least a proportion of children’s literature engaged with the issues and ideas of the day. In the course of researching Left Out: The Forgotten Radical Tradition of Children’s Publishing in Britain, 1910-1949 (2016), I identified more than two-hundred picture books, books, and periodicals that demonstrate a high degree of political awareness and an interest in aspects of avant-garde arts and letters.[4] The majority of these works were written in the 1920s and 1930s. This was a time of political and economic turbulence, but also, for those on the Left, one of optimism, since many believed that, in response to the global military and economic challenges that were rocking the world, the inequities of capitalism, nationalism, and imperialism would soon be addressed by a new socialist world government.

For the most part, these radical children’s books are not great literary works, but the fact that their existence has been so thoroughly forgotten distorts accounts of both publishing for children and ideas about childhood in culture more generally during these years. Their absence constitutes a hole in the cultural memory over which a patch made of an officially comfortable version of the past has been stitched. This short article begins the work of removing that patch and, to change the metaphor slightly, repairing the hole by picking up dropped stitches in the form of forgotten children’s books. It introduces a representative selection of the kinds of texts and authors who attempted to refashion society through children’s literature by producing works that rejected stereotypical attitudes to gender, race, class, poverty, ethnicity, nationality, and childhood. Far from regarding ideal childhood as either innocent and separate from adulthood, as it was characterized in mainstream children’s literature at the time, or “frozen” in the ways Esty discusses, these works focus on helping their readers mature into rational, fulfilled, knowledgeable, and capable adults. They do this by arming their readers with the skills and information necessary for interrogating their surroundings and deciding for themselves what to think and how to behave. A good number of the forgotten texts I have located are thought-provoking, entertaining, and capable of withstanding critical scrutiny, which begs the question, why was virtually every left-leaning publication for children consigned to oblivion in the second half of the last century? Before suggesting some answers to this question, it is necessary to provide a brief overview of some representative examples, giving a sense of their range, ambition, and characteristics


Reimagining the World in Politically Radical Children’s Literature

The left-wing publications that appeared between 1910 and 1950 include miscellanies, magazines, picture books, information and reference books, and fiction for all ages. In their pages, young readers were encouraged to explore topics including the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, new scientific developments, strikes in the USA, experiments to promote new ways of living by changing the built environment, and possible future worlds in which populations are no longer divided on the basis of wealth, class, education, sex, race, ethnicity, or age. Many of these works looked beyond Britain as part of their internationalist ethos and agenda. To build a world government requires recognizing all people as equal citizens united by their needs and aspirations. Two typical examples of internationally engaged works that promulgate this ethos are F. Tennyson Jesse’s Moonraker, or, the Female Pirate and Her Friends (1927) and Jack Lindsay’s Rebels of the Goldfields (1936). Both use historical settings to expose Britain’s long history of exploitation and suppression, and to help readers recognize that similar problems affected their own time.

F. Tennyson Jesse (1888-1958) was an author, journalist, and socialite—she knew many of the most respected artists, writers, and public figures of the day. As a young woman, “Fryn,” as she styled herself (short for Wynifried), lived a bohemian life, beginning with her time as a student at the Newlyn School of Painting in Cornwall. Her left-wing and progressive sympathies are evident in Moonraker.

Moonraker (Every effort has been made to contact the individuals involved in creating the cover images reproduced in this article. In some cases it has been impossible to locate any individual with a possible copyright interest. Anyone who has information about the images reproduced here should contact BREAC. the editors will be happy to rectify any errors or omissions at the earliest opportunity.)

The story is set in 1801-1802, when Napoleon Bonaparte sent troops to reestablish authority over the French colony of Santa Domingo where a former slave, Toussaint l’Ouverture, had declared himself Governor-General following a rebellion of slaves that eventually resulted in the formation of the free state of Haiti. Much of the action takes place on a pirate ship whose captain, unbeknownst to its crew, is a woman. As a girl called Sophy, her father had required her to masquerade as male, and as a woman she is happy in the freedom that the persona of Captain Lovel offers her until she falls in love with Jacky, a handsome young Frenchman the pirates take prisoner. A disciple of Rousseau and member of a society called “Les Amis des Noirs” (The Friends of the Blacks), Jacky explains to Captain Lovel that he had been on his way to support Toussaint L’Ouverture and “the cause of human liberty.”[5] His presence on the ship makes Sophy understand that, with the exception of a few white, wealthy European males, very few people anywhere experience liberty.

When Jacky and Captain Lovel separately realize that they are attracted to each other, he fears for his sexual identity while she understands that to unmask herself will result only in misery. After the life she has lived as a man, Sophy would never be socially accepted as a woman, nor would she be able to retain the freedom and power she has exercized so effectively in the role of a pirate captain. In despair, and still in her role as pirate captain, Sophy puts her crew and all those she loves in a boat and blows up herself and her ship. As well as sympathizing with the plight of black peoples, therefore, Moonraker rails against the limited lives led by most women, both in the past and after the First World War. The situation of the crossdressing pirate captain is an extreme version of the experience of the many women who had found ways to contribute to the war effort but who, from 1920, found their lives once again circumscribed by convention and patriarchal prejudice.[6] Although they had served the nation well as working women and showed that females can be as capable as men in most spheres, to want to continue working after the men returned was generally treated as unnatural and a corruption of femininity. Through Jacky’s anxiety about his attraction to what he believes is another man, the novel also raises questions about the regulation of sexuality. This is, then, a book that is politically engaged on a number of levels: it points to the consequences of colonization and repression abroad, and it acknowledges the many ways in which freedom and choice are denied to large parts of the domestic population. Like Jacky, it supports the cause of human liberty. 

Rebels of the Goldfield also employs an outsider’s perspective to critique the inequalities that underpinned western European behavior at home and abroad. Reflecting Jack (John) Lindsay’s Australian birth, it uses the story of the 1854 “Eureka” uprising by Australian gold miners to criticize tyrannical regimes more generally. By the time Rebels of the Goldfield was published, Lindsay (1900-1990) had been living in England for a decade. He had firmly aligned himself with the Left, and in 1936 had just joined the Communist Party, the influence of which is evident in the plotting and dialogue of this novel. In contradistinction to the view that children’s literature from this period was politically disengaged, Lindsay, like F. Tennyson Jesse and the other writers discussed here and in Left Out, belongs to a cluster of children’s authors who also wrote for left-sympathizing publications. Lindsay, for example, wrote for the influential journal Left Review and co-edited the Left Book Club anthology A Handbook of Freedom: A Record of English Democracy through Twelve Centuries (1939). Many of the themes in A Handbook of Freedom are anticipated in Rebels of the Goldfield.

The miners who rebelled against the Australian government were made up of migrants from Britain, Ireland, Germany, Italy, China, and North America. Rebels of the Goldfields tells the events of the rebellion from their point of view, stressing their common history of living under unjust regimes. The miners are outraged because they are being unfairly taxed and, though they make up the majority of the population, most do not have a vote and so have no legal form of representation. The book is built around a series of incidents in which the miners are brutally repressed by the police, leading them to compare themselves to slaves. The central character, a young Australian named Dick, is befriended by Shane, who was politically radicalized while growing up under British rule in Ireland. Through Shane he becomes involved in a range of protests and hears how others have fled poverty and repression in different parts of the world. They see old patterns of exploitation being repeated in Australia and vow to prevent the young country from developing in the same way. As he learns more about left-wing politics,

[t]he world seemed an entirely new place to Dick. Everything had got a new focus. Strange horizons opened before him, and he no longer saw what was going on at Ballarat as a mere chance unrest caused by the grievances of a few thousand miners. He saw it all as the ceaseless effort of men to free themselves, to find peace and justice.[7]

In keeping with the Left’s hopes for a world government run by and for ordinary people, Dick feels “all the efforts for Freedom linked up somehow, knitting into a force that would be irresistible some day.”[8] As the miners prepare to fight the military, they sing, “Irish insurrection-songs, English Chartist songs, German songs of the barricades.”[9] With the advantage of hindsight, Lindsay is able to use this incident to cheer on rebels in his own time: in 1936, foremost among these would have been the Republicans in Spain. This layering of past and present is deeply optimistic since the Eureka rebellion is widely credited with ushering in Australian democracy, meaning that rebellion in Lindsay’s novel is understood to be a noble activity that brings freedoms and rights.


Celebrating Britain’s Diversity

Not all the texts for children from this period that cultivate an internationalist ethos directed their gaze outside Britain. The trio of books about Billy and Beryl written by Thomas Burke (1886-1945) during 1935 and 1936, for instance, celebrate what today would be called Britain’s diverse society. Burke came to attention as a writer with the publication of Limehouse Nights (1916), a collection of stories for adults set in part of the East End of London known as Limehouse where Chinese immigrants tended to live and work.[10] The first book in the series, Billy and Beryl in Chinatown (1935), is essentially Limehouse Nights for children. It features two children from a middle-class family that has evidently fallen on hard times (no details are given, but the 1930s context suggests their difficulties may be to do with unemployment). They live near Regents Park and have made friends with George, a taxi driver who, across the three books, takes Billy and his sister around Soho and the oldest parts of London to introduce them to the history of the city and the people from many nationalities who live there and whose cultures enrich it. They begin in Chinatown, and on the long drive to reach that part of the city, Billy and Beryl begin to notice that the shops have “strange names over them like Toporovsky, Chestopal, Zauberstregel, Gombar, Teufelschweiler, Pzysoumsch.”[11] Soon afterwards they see an exotic collection of people of different backgrounds and races:

There were black men in blue trousers and white coats and red pointed hats. There were brown men in long khaki coats. There were men who weren’t quite white and weren’t quite brown, but sort of in-between, dressed all in white. There were copper-coloured men wearing turbans. Here were tall black men and short black men.[12]

While young Billy is at first rather frightened by the strange sights they see, Beryl has learned a little about some of the different cultures they encounter at school. Her openness and the use she makes of the pieces of information she has acquired in lessons underpin a central theme in the book about the importance of education in alleviating social and cultural tensions.

On their first excursion, Billy and Beryl make friends with Mr. Soon, a Chinese shopkeeper, who gives them a meal and many gifts from his homeland. In the course of their visit, Mr. Soon’s servant plays a one-stringed Chinese guitar and performs magic tricks for the children. Each time they remark on how strange something is, their host explains that to him these things are normal while he finds Billy and Beryl’s way of living strange. Through encounters such as these, Burke’s stories convey the then-new concept of cultural relativism by showing how understanding individuals in terms of their own culture bursts the bubble of British superiority that floats through much of the children’s literature from this period. By the end of the story, readers have had the chance to learn alongside Billy and Beryl, who discover, among other things, that while the Chinese friends they have made live in a poor part of the city, their homes are comfortable, they are generous, and their culture is replete with stories, music, toys, and magic.

As well as bringing together classes and cultures, Burke’s books treat children and adults as equal and show the importance for all ages of learning about each other’s lifestyles and backgrounds.

Billy and Beryl (Every effort has been made to contact the individuals involved in creating the cover images reproduced in this article. In some cases it has been impossible to locate any individual with a possible copyright interest. Anyone who has information about the images reproduced here should contact Breac. The editors will be happy to rectify any errors or omissions at the earliest opportunity.)

Billy and Beryl in Old London (1936) focuses on the fact that migrants are not a new phenomenon and that not all those who were once migrants continue to be regarded as strange or exotic. George and the children explore ancient Roman and Norman sites and see taverns from Shakespeare’s day where people from all nations mingled. Food is an important aspect of cultural difference in these stories; on this outing Billy and Beryl have tea with Mrs. Mouseyblossom, a Jewish woman who tells them about her father’s life, introduces them to some Jewish customs, and feeds them smoked salmon, caraway bread, and a “begel.”

As well as breaking down assumptions about other races and cultures and what it means to be British, a significant proportion of the politically radical children’s texts are concerned with the need for domestic reforms, starting with Britain’s class system. One approach to doing this was to show middle-class children having their eyes opened to the problems faced by those who are less comfortably off than they are. This is the underlying lesson in Barbara Euphan Todd and Esther Boumphrey’s The House That Ran Behind (1943), in which middle-class siblings who are exploring the New Forest in a caravan find themselves under pressure when they mislay the money their parents have given them to cover their expenses. Without money and connections, the children lack security for the first time in their lives and quickly learn the difficulties faced by those who live on the economic margins of society. Tony and Bridget, the oldest of the children, seek work to earn enough to feed them all. Although they are still well-dressed and speak in the kind of accents that in mainstream children’s books would command respect and aid whatever their circumstances—think of how easily Enid Blyton’s child characters from the same period issue orders to those from the lower classes, including adults in positions of authority such as policemen—here the fact that they have no money or references means that they are mistrusted and exploited. Tony and Bridget are shocked by the way they are treated, and the illustrations by Nora S. Unwin underline the book’s message that the hardships endured by the poor often have nothing to do with what kind of people they are. A drawing of Tony and Bridget tramping in the rain to find work clearly references photographs of the hunger marchers and “Jarrow Crusade” of the previous decade. The disproportionate relationship between the effort they put in and their wages soon has Tony talking of unions—though as Bridget points out, to little purpose, since they don’t belong to one.

Another group of middle-class siblings who unexpectedly have to learn to survive when they lose the support of their parents are the five Dunnett children in Eleanor Graham’s The Children Who Lived in a Barn (1938). The children, aged between seven and thirteen, are required to look after themselves when their parents fail to return from a stint abroad where they have been looking after a sick relative. The authorities assume that the Dunnett parents have been killed when their airplane crashed; without an income, the children are evicted from their comfortable home in a small village. Determined not to be taken into care and separated, they set up home in a primitive barn offered to them by a farmer who is almost the only supportive person around them. With just a cold tap, no heating and, presumably, no indoor lavatory facilities, their new home is not unlike the cottages/hovels in which many agricultural workers lived at the time. Sue, the oldest at age thirteen, becomes the principal carer. Her efforts are constantly undermined by the District Nurse, who is vigilant only with a view to proving the children incapable of managing for themselves and putting them into orphanages. In fact, the siblings learn to forage and cook using old country ways (clay for baking rabbits, hay-boxes for slow cooking), and by the time their parents, who have survived the plane crash, return, they have been made stronger, more independent, and more resilient by their months in the country. Although the consequences of temporarily living on the margins of society are broadly positive for the children, both The House That Ran Behind and The Children Who Lived in a Barn direct readers to think about the inadequacies of official provision for those in difficulty, as well as about the need for decent, modern social housing for the homeless and those who have no alternative to living in dwellings as basic as the children’s barn. They do this by disrupting the lives of the kind of middle-class children who traditionally featured in children’s books at this time.

The last book in this overview takes a different approach to critiquing class society by featuring working-class characters and documenting aspects of the lives children like them were leading in Britain at the end of the Second World War. Bill Naughton’s Pony Boy (1946) tells the story of Ginger and Corky, two youths who get jobs making deliveries for one of the many city firms that used pony carts for this purpose. Naughton, best remembered for his 1963 play Alfie—adapted for the screen in 1966, starring Michael Caine, and in 2004, with Jude Law in the title role—grew up in Lancashire and often wrote about the hardships endured by the working class as a consequence of the vagaries of industrial capitalism. He was particularly conscious of the impact of the closure of the textile mills in Lancashire in the 1930s and the effects of the declining mining industry on communities in the north of England.

Pony Boy (Every effort has been made to contact the individuals involved in creating the cover images reproduced in this article. In some cases it has been impossible to locate any individual with a possible copyright interest. Anyone who has information about the images reproduced here should contact Breac. The editors will be happy to rectify any errors or omissions at the earliest opportunity.)

Pony Boy is set against this background and opens with a scene made familiar by Victorian writers in which working-class children are at the mercy of uncaring institutions. It is Corky’s last day of school, a place where he has been treated with disdain and systematically humiliated since the morning he arrived. None of his good qualities have been recognized, and even on his leaving day, Corky’s teacher offers no encouragement but instead projects a life of feckless criminality for the boy. However, this book is no grim tragedy, and Corky’s working-class world is not made up of victims who are unable to help themselves. Ginger and Corky are witty, good-natured, capable, reliable, and resilient, and they come from loving, functional families and communities. Pony Boy features a world far removed from that experienced by middle-class child characters—even those who are temporarily dislocated from their class. In Pony Boy, the boys encounter the challenges, opportunities, vicissitudes, and excitement experienced by young people as they enter the world of work. While reading Naughton’s book, children of different social backgrounds meet and learn about each other’s lives and contemplate how to share privileges, opportunities, and responsibilities more fairly.


The Not-So Morbid Age

There has only been room in this piece to present a small sample of the kinds of left-wing publications that were produced for children in the 1920s and 1930s. Even in this limited selection, however, it is possible to see writers attempting to make young people aware of the need to reform the social and economic organization of the country—not just to make Britain a more fair place for all, but also to bring an end to the crises caused by the booms and busts of world economies and the series of wars that had already beset the new century. Left-wing books of the kind discussed here are attempting to prepare young readers to make a mark. They offer them strategies for reimagining the world and give them some of the skills and insights necessary for fulfilling their ambitions. The books discussed above encourage readers to think globally and to see the need to share resources, technologies, and ideas. Others tackled individual disciplines: E.F. Stucley’s Pollycon (1933) and Janusz Korczak’s Big Business Billy (1939) set about teaching even very young children the principles of economics; works by leading architects such as Maxwell and Jane Fry and Oliver Hill taught the importance of good design to modern societies. Perhaps the most ambitious of the books from this period is Naomi Mitchison’s edited reference work An Outline for Boys and Girls and Their Parents (1932), which aimed “to help forward the new world” by introducing the “citizens of the future” to the many branches of knowledge they would need to solve the problems then confronting Britain and the world.[13] Among the topics covered are reproduction, life in the USSR, psychology, and the importance of avoiding another global conflict. The ambitious nature of the volume is captured by Marcus Crouch, recalling its impact thirty years on:

There had been nothing like the Outline. It was not an encyclopedia but a critical stock-taking of contemporary knowledge. It was up-to-date; indeed it presented the advanced thought in each of its subjects. It was written for intelligent people of all ages. The simplification lay in the way in which difficult concepts were presented by means of illustration and example, not in artificial restriction of language or an avoidance of complexities […]. Above all it encouraged the reader to think for himself.[14]

Far from assuming the imminent collapse of civilization or featuring characters whose growth is arrested, An Outline for Boys and Girls and Their Parents is typical of left-wing children’s literature in being ambitious for the future. At a time when print was the principal medium of communication, these publications saw children’s literature as a catalyst for change and offered readers visions of themselves as the people who would inhabit a new world and who would be at the center of efforts to reform and regenerate society. Instead of presenting youth as frozen or stymied, they sided with those who claimed the twentieth century would be “the century of the child.”[15] These books also reflect the fact that across the USSR and Europe, governments and political groups were working to involve young people in politics, constructing an image of youth as “a force capable of overturning or revitalizing decadent domestic politics.”[16] Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin captured this feeling in a speech of 1937 when he described the young as “the governors of the future” and charged them with “the duty of guarding and safeguarding what is worthy and worthwhile in our past, our heritage and our traditions, our honour and our hopes.”[17]

These books flattered youth, but it is difficult to ascertain what kind of impact they had. All of the titles discussed here were reviewed in the mainstream press as well as in left-wing papers such as The Daily Worker; they also featured on lists of recommended books created for teachers, librarians, and parents. Reviews and sales records are rare; many of the books’ publishers no longer exist, and records relating to children’s books—or at least these left-leaning examples of writing for the young—seem not to have been valued by those that do. The Victor Gollancz archives include the production records for An Outline for Boys and Girls and Their Parents, which reveal that the volume sold 30,000 copies over four years. This cannot be taken as representative, since Gollancz had hoped for a bestseller and vigorously promoted the book, but it is nonetheless an indication of the potential market for publications of this sort. In any case, sales figures alone do not indicate impact or readership, so it is necessary to find other ways of quantifying this. In the case of books published from the 1930s onwards, there are still people today who can recall buying and reading them when they first appeared. There may be a hole in the cultural memory, but help in mending it can also be found in the living memory of people who read these works as children. A development of the research for Left Out is a forthcoming anthology of well-loved reading remembered by those who grew up in Communist and left-wing homes. Many of the works featured here are ones they recall and sometimes still own; evidence from memoirs and interviews with a range of readers are included in Left Out.

One reason why sales of An Outline for Boys and Girls and Their Parents were not as dynamic as Victor Gollancz had hoped was that the book was swiftly and vigorously condemned by the church and the conservative press. To the end of their days, both Mitchison and Gollancz believed this censure was seriously injurious. But to answer the larger question of why their groundbreaking project and almost all the other books featured here and in Left Out have been expunged from the cultural memory, it is necessary to look at broader contributing factors. By the end of the Second World War, the effects of disillusionment with the Soviet project under Stalin, the Cold War, and progress in establishing a welfare state caused many who had once enthusiastically embraced the agendas and policies of the Left to retreat to a liberal middle ground. Meanwhile, British children’s literature was embarking on a second “golden age,” characterized by lyrical and elegiac novels such as Lucy Boston’s The Children of Green Knowe (1954) and Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden (1958). Suddenly, as well as being mired in some discredited ideologies, these left-wing works seemed overly didactic and unsubtle.[18] Together these conditions and perceptions helped kick-start the cultural forgetting around left-wing children’s literature that rapidly crystalized to form the view that during these years writing for children was retreatist and disengaged. As I hope this article has begun to make clear, mending this hole in our cultural memory offers some significant insights and correctives to that perception. I believe it also shows that the ideas of childhood associated with such second golden-age writers as Lucy Boston, Leon Garfield, Alan Garner, William Mayne, Mary Norton, Philippa Pearce, and Rosemary Sutcliff were neither sui generis nor, as John Rowe Townsend has argued, imported from the US, but have their origins in these radical earlier works.[19]


Research for this article was conducted with the support of a Major Leverhulme Fellowship.


[1] See Alexandra Harris, Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper (London: Thames and Hudson), 2010.

[2] Jed Esty, Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), ix.

[3] See, for instance, Marcus Crouch, The Nesbit Tradition: The Children’s Novel 1945-1970 (London: Ernest Benn Ltd., 1972), 17; Peter Hunt, “Retreatism and Advance (1914-1945),” in Children’s Literature: An Illustrated History, ed. Peter Hunt (Oxford and New York: OUP, 1995), 193; chapter twelve in Robert Leeson, Reading and Righting: The Past, Present and Future of Fiction for the Young (London: Collins); and John Rowe Townsend, Written for Children: An Outline of English-Language Children’s Literature (1965; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), 163.

[4] All the titles I identified are included in an appendix to Left Out (Oxford: OUP, 2016).

[5] F. Tennyson Jesse, Moonraker, or, the Female Pirate and Her Friends (London: William Heinemann, 1927), 26.

[6] In Britain, the right to vote was only granted to all women over the age of twenty-one in 1928, the year after Moonraker appeared.

[7] Jack Lindsay, Rebels of the Goldfield (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1936), 131.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 148.

[10] Three stories from Limehouse Nights were turned into films by D.W. Griffith: in 1919, “The Chink and the Child” became the film Broken Blossoms, and in 1921, Griffith turned “Gina of Chinatown” and “Song of the Lamp” into the film Dream Street.

[11] Thomas Burke, Billy and Beryl in Chinatown (London: George Harrap & Co., 1935), 15.

[12] Ibid., 16.

[13] For a prepublication pamphlet for An Outline for Boys and Girls and Their Parents, see MSS.318/4/7a, Victor Gollancz Archives, University of Warwick Library.

[14] Marcus Crouch, Treasure Seekers and Borrowers: Children’s Books in Britain 1900-1960 (London: The Library Association, 1962), 81.

[15] “The century of the child” derives from the title of Swedish feminist educationalist Ellen Key’s best-selling book (published in English in 1909 under that title) that argued the twentieth century should place children at the center of social policy and cultural development. 

[16] David M. Pomfret, “‘Lionized and Toothless’: Young People and Urban Politics in Britain and France. 1918-1940,” in European Cities, Youth and the Public Sphere in the Twentieth Century, ed. Axel Schildt and Detlef Siegfried (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 27.

[17] Quoted in ibid., 31.

[18] The years 1870-1914 are usually identified as the first “golden age” of children’s literature; those between 1950 and 1970 as its second. The 1990s, which saw the publication of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, have been mooted as a possible third “golden age”; see Lucy Pearson, The Making of Modern Children’s Literature in Britain: Publishing and Criticism in the 1960s and 1970s (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013).

[19] See Townsend, “The History of Children’s Books, No. 5: The ‘Second Golden Age,’” Books for

Keeps: The Children’s Book Magazine Online, January 1998,