Emotional Manhood: Adolescence, Informal Education and the Male Citizen in Britain, 1880-1914

The mass voluntarism of 1914 has been understood as an acute outpouring of the prevailing jingoistic and militaristic currents of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, combined with an unrealistic optimism about the likely duration of the war. This established interpretation has allowed other explanatory factors for why so many young men rushed to the call to arms to go overlooked or remain underexplored. A major focus of my work is to reinterpret the events of 1914 according to widely felt emotions related to moral and domestic duty (of loyalty to family), through a sense of character and temperance defined in Christian terms. These in turn were related to religious outpourings of emotion.
Appeals to emotion, and the shaping of “correct” emotional responses on these important issues were key to the shaping of the next generation of men. This informal moral and emotionaleducation was carried out through the medium of popular culture and youth organizations. The project ties the historical study of emotions with an examination of some of the fundaments of society and the individual’s place in it: family, religion and citizenship. My definition of citizenship represents the historical multivalence of the term, including its emotional resonance. Crucially, it was associated with future fatherhood: good heads of families would be good citizens. In addition, my work examines how the increasing professionalization of disciplines related to childhood - education, social work and especially psychology - changed the nature of informal education for boys, and impacted popular conceptions of boyhood and adolescence.