Children’s citizenly participation in the National Revolution: The instrumentalization of children in Vichy France

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Children held a privileged place in Vichy France. They became the subjects and objects of a vigorous propaganda which recognized their ability to contribute to the National Revolution. This article discusses three ways in which children were instrumentalized by the regime, showing their reciprocal engagement with it, which is understood as ‘citizenly’ behaviour. First, drawn into the maréchaliste leadership cult, they were used to embed the values of the regime. Second, children’s compassion was co-opted in various campaigns which contributed to national(ist) solidarity. Third, they engaged with a gendered duty to national population growth, now and in the future. The article uses ‘public’ written sources (for example, letters and essays sent to Marshal Pétain and thus archived in public collections, not diaries or drawings for private eyes, in private hands) produced by children. Although it recognizes these as epistemologically unstable, such sources present opportunities for understanding elements of children’s agency, which is seen in conformity as well as dissent. By recognizing children as historical actors, we can identify them as ‘beings’ active in their own lives, and not just adults-in-waiting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-780
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Review of History/Revue Europeenne d'Histoire
Issue number5
Early online date23 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


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