What does Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin tell us about what childhood was like in society in the 1700s?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Coram Boy points out three things quite clearly about childhood in the society of England in the 1700s. The first is that murdering and selling children was an offense legally and socially worthy of immediate hanging. Second, poverty and illiteracy required hard work from dawn to dusk even of children. Third, women who gave birth to unwanted children faced the same problem of choosing what to do with infant living humans as women face today.

The social divide between the wealthy and poor was dramatically demarcated in the 1700s, which was before a strong middle class began to be built up, so children often had lives of luxury or lives of struggle. This was not always the case as rural people and others might have means to give their children happy if not work-free lives. Nonetheless the stark contrast between those who could attain advantages and those who could not often made life for children early and prolonged drudgery. The early dividing point between advantage and disadvantage was education--the same dividing point that demarcates life's options for children today.

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