How children and children’s literature helped build America’s empireAmerica’s empire was not made by adults alone. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, young people became essential to its creation. Through children’s literature, authors instilled the idea of America’s power and the importance of its global prominence. As kids eagerly read dime novels, series fiction, pulp magazines, and comic books that dramatized the virtues of empire, they helped entrench a growing belief in America’s indispensability to the international order.Empires more generally require stories to justify their existence. Children’s literature seeded among young people a conviction that their country’s command of a continent (and later the world) was essential to global stability. This genre allowed ardent imperialists to obscure their aggressive agendas with a veneer of harmlessness or fun. The supposedly nonthreatening nature of the child and children’s literature thereby helped to disguise dominion’s unsavory nature.The modern era has been called both the “American Century” and the “Century of the Child.” Brian Rouleau illustrates how those conceptualizations came together by depicting children in their influential role as the junior partners of US imperial enterprise.
- 2021 New York University
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