Children and Youth in African History: Thinking Africa through Age and Aging


This paper is on the usefulness of age as a category of historical analysis for African history. Drawing on my recently completed manuscript Childhood and Youth in African History (published in 2023 by Palgrave), this paper argues not only that children and young people were frequently at the frontier of major social, cultural, political, and economic change on the continent, and especially during colonial conquest and at decolonisation, but also that conceptualisations of age (who or what constituted a ‘child’ for instance) were important for justifying, explaining and justifying colonial rule, as well as resistance to it.

Sarah Emily Duff is Assistant Professor of African and World History at Colby College. She is the author of Changing Childhoods in the Cape Colony: Dutch Reformed Church Evangelicalism and Colonial Childhood, 1860-1895 (2015) and Childhood and Youth in African History (2023). She is an historian of age and gender in nineteenth- and twentieth-century South Africa and the British Empire.