Children’s books and childhood reading in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Denmark: Memoirs and autobiographies as sources to children’s media repertoires

Charlotte Appel, Nina Christensen, Karoline Baden Staffensen

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This article sets out to demonstrate the potential of memoirs and autobiographies as sources to study children’s use of books and other media in Denmark between around 1750 and 1850. Research on historical children’s reading cultures in the Nordic countries has been limited, and knowledge of children’s own experiences of reading, including how, when, where, what and with whom they read, is scarce. Despite the fact that most autobiographical writings were put on paper late in the authors’ lives, and even though most were composed by privileged or exceptional individuals, these sources can open up aspects of children’s book and media history which are otherwise largely inaccessible. Inspired by media scholars Hepp and Hasebrink’s concepts of media repertoires and media ensembles, we point to the importance of studying individual children’s selections of media (“repertoires”) in relation to those available in specific social contexts (“ensembles”). The article looks at six memoirs, representing boys and girls, urban and rural settings, and rich and poor families. We consider how these ego-documents may tell unexpected
stories about children’s media repertoires in practice and about the social life of children’s books and reading.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMémoires du livre/ Studies in Book Culture
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

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