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Title: Taking the pledge : a study of children's societies for the prevention of cruelty to birds and animals in Britain, c.1870-1914
Authors: Milton, Frederick Stephen
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis examines the work of children's societies that aimed to instruct children to be kind to animals and birds, from c. 1870 to 1914. Its aims are to account for the growth of these societies managed by animal protectionists and the press; to assess how contemporary modes of masculinity affected children's relationships with animals; to explain how children embarked upon progressive conservation; and contribute to the history of childhood and the press. A widely held belief was that cruelty to animals led to interpersonal violence. By surveying the children's press, and the work of the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, this thesis argues that moralists realised that the solution to this anxiety lay in teaching children to respect animals. The RSPCA's educational work was reorganised in 1870, and the first Band of Mercy children's society followed in 1875. The Dicky Bird Society, the first children's `press club', was formed a year later by the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle. These associations obliged children to sign a pledge making a commitment to be kind towards animals. Literature and proactive activities then provided a means of reinforcing this undertaking and measuring progress. By creating `tiny humanitarians' as active conservation workers, the societies inspired children to care about animals and also reform their peers. This was not without its tensions, most conspicuously the reticence of boys to join the societies because of their love of bird-nesting and received ideas about masculinity. Existing surveys depict the nineteenth-century animal protection movement as one managed by privileged individuals concerned with enforcing legislation by harassinga supposedlyb rutal working class,w ho had no time to care about animal welfare. On the contrary, this thesis suggests that children, especially those of the working classes, as active `tiny humanitarians', played a positive role in pulling public opinion towards a more appreciative disposition towards wildlife.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Historical Studies

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