24 Mar. 2015: More on Royal Holloway seminar on training children

Margaret Bird will give an illustrated talk ‘Inculcating an appreciation of time pressure in the young: the training of children for working life in 18th-century England‘. All are welcome. It will be held on Tuesday 24 March 2015 at 6 pm.

The talk draws in part on the diary of Mary Hardy, published by Burnham Press in full for the first time in 2013. This research seminar forms part of the regular Tuesday evening series held at Royal Holloway, University of London. Details of the venue near Windsor are given later on this page.

Raven Hardy's index 1773-74

Aged seven, Raven Hardy started to list the contents of his mother’s diary. He noted the hangings he and his younger brother had witnessed in April 1774 [Cozens-Hardy Collection]


The rearing of children has been a topic at the centre of academic debate since the Annales historian Philippe Ariès analysed the experience of childhood in his influential study Le sentiment de l’enfance in 1960.

Margaret Bird’s exploration of the tensions between respecting children as individuals and the need to hurry them into maturity for working life relates to the mercantile and manufacturing class in England.

Understanding time pressure, even as young as six, formed part of children’s moulding for their future careers and as useful members of society. Time-conscious capitalism and Calvinism lay behind much of the thinking.

Norwich Castle, the Norman keep

The Hardys took their children, maids and farm boy to watch public executions at Norwich Castle. Hangings were educative, and served as a warning to the young

Young people in the household

Children were not the only young people in a middle-class home. Maidservants usually began their careers between the ages of eleven and fifteen, and the mistress of the household was responsible not only for their training but their moral welfare. In country areas the farm boy, being prepared for life as a farm servant, might start aged ten or eleven. Like the maids he would live in.

The talk will discuss the training and time-awareness inculcated in them by their employers. As the author of an advice book warned servants, ‘You defraud your master if you idle away an hour that should be employed in his business.’ Mary Hardy, and sometimes even that more relaxed clergyman James Woodforde, living only 18 miles away, would note in their diaries the clocking out and clocking back of servants granted time off for the fair.

Finding Royal Holloway

The college’s Tuesday evening history seminars are open to the public free of charge.

Margaret Bird, the editor of the diary of Mary Hardy, has been a honorary research fellow in the History department at Royal Holloway since 2006. The seminar on 24 March will be held on the college’s Egham campus on Egham Hill (the A30) in Surrey in the History building (McCrea Room 336) at 6 pm. It will last until about 7.30 or 7.45 pm, with time for questions and discussion.

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Margaret Bird

Margaret Bird in 2016

The editor and author of the Mary Hardy volumes

You can read about the historian Margaret Bird on the link above

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