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Children and Youth of the Empire: Tales of Transgression and Accommodation

  • Gillian Arrighi
  • Victor Emeljanow
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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)

Abstract

During the first decade of the twentieth century theatrical troupes that comprised child performers were a feature of the transnational touring routes throughout Australasia and “the East,” as the vast territory north of Australia to Shanghai, and west to the subcontinent of India was colloquially termed. Often referred to as “lilliputian” or “juvenile” companies this type of performance was a phenomenon particular to the historical moment, the result of interwoven strands of empire, culture, and modernizing progress. As we shall see, most of the young performers were engaged in Australia. Quite apart from comic operas, pantomimes, variety, and burlesque, these troupes also transmitted intangible yet reaffirming ideas about youth, and empire, cleverness, and the future. Audiences with a predilection for the bright and precocious young emissaries from the outer reaches of the Empire sustained the existence of these troupes for three decades; the highest density occurred during the years 1900–1910. With itineraries that sometimes included South Africa and Canada, the Empire (as distinct from “the East”) constituted their geographic range.

Keywords

Opus Company News Report Moral Panic Entertainment Industry Parliamentary Debate 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow, “Entertaining Children: An Exploration of the Business and Politics of Childhood,” New Theatre Quarterly 28:1 (February 2012): 1–55, at 48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Charles Booth estimated that between 1851 and 1881 children under 15 represented 35 percent of the population of England and Wales. The Australian colonies recorded similarly high rates of youth. During the 1890s 45 percent of the population of New South Wales was under 20 and “by the end of the century, in all the eastern mainland colonies, the largest cohort was that aged between 10 and 14 years.” Bradley Bowden, “A World Dominated by Youth: Child and Youth Labour in Queensland, 1885–1900,” in The Past Is before Us, eds. Greg Patmore, John Shields, and Nikola Balnave (Sydney: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 2005), 37–45.Google Scholar
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  14. 21.
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    See John M. MacKenzie, Propaganda and Empire: The Manipulation of British Public Opinion 1880–1960 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), 228.Google Scholar
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© Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian Arrighi
  • Victor Emeljanow

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