Child Soldiers: Tropes of Innocence and Terror

David Rosen

Abstract


The story of child soldiers in the Western imagination is a story of symbolic reversals. Where the image of the child soldier once denoted public virtue and the nobility of sacrifice, it now stands for virtually everything that is wrong with war. Children were frequently present in the military through much of the 19th century (Aries 1962, p. 193). But by the middle of the 19th century, most Western nations had begun to reduce or eliminate the presence of children in their armed forces. The change was slow and erratic, however, so that even during World War I the heroic and patriotic child soldier, typically a boy sailor or soldier, remained a central image in the ideology of war and conflict (Conley 2009).

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14672/ada2013200%25p

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