Ellen Boucher

  • Fellowship year:2007-2008
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: World History
  • Dissertation Title: An Imperial Investment: British State-Assisted Child Emigration to Australia and Southern Rhodesia, 1869-1967
  • This dissertation analyzes the sudden rise and gradual decline of the British child emigration movement, a government-funded policy that permanently transferred underprivileged children aged six to thirteen to the settler empire. It compares modern child migrant initiatives in Australia and South Rhodesia in order to explore the interaction between politics and social welfare. In particular, it focuses on the ways in which reformers and politicians both in Britain and overseas conceived of the needs of children and the empire, and charts how these conceptual understandings changed during the twentieth century. Examining the development of modern welfarism within a trans-national framework, it thus uncovers how the political ideologies of empire influenced notions of social reform in Britain, and conversely, how domestic child welfare policy was reshaped when implemented abroad.

    The first part examines shifts in the political and ideological motivations for child emigration from its roots in the late Victorian child rescue movement to its final decline in the 1960s. The second part is an in-depth comparison of the aims, structure, and long-term impact of child migrant institutions in Australia and Southern Rhodesia. The dissertation concludes with an analysis of the present debate about child emigration, and the role of popular memory in defining current interpretations of childhood as well as Britain’s imperial past.