Childhood in Times of Political Transformation in the 20th Century

Venue: Room 2R-EG-07, Campus, Hof 3, University of Vienna + online via Zoom

The talk uses the lens of childhood and youth to provide an unconventional diachronic exploration of the relationship between political crises, the longer processes of political and social transformation and their implications for the lives of the young. As throughout history children were often seen as a ‘political tabula rasa’, they literally embody systemic changes and political and social transformations and offer thus a meaningful lens on periods of systemic change. To explore how children lived through and experienced these periods of accelerated change, the papers in this double special issue shed light on three major political ruptures and the longer-term transformations these entailed, including their impact on notions and everyday realities of childhood and youth: World War I and its aftermath, World War II and its following years, and ‘1989’ as the end of the Cold War and the beginning of postcommunism. This diachronic perspective allows us to not only juxtapose the impact of the two World Wars and the Cold War on childhood but also integrate the aftermath of these conflicts into a diachronic perspective on longer processes of political and social transformation. Gathering in this double special issue a range of selected historical case studies of (post)war and (post)socialist childhoods allows readers to detect similarities and differences among children’s everyday lives across time and space and support a thinking of the twentieth century through the lens of ‘transformation’.

Prof. Dr. Machteld Venken is a Professor of Contemporary Transnational History at the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH). She studied Slavic Languages and Cultures, European Studies and History in Belgium, Poland and Ukraine. Venken earned her PhD in 2008 at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) and her habilitation in 2018 at the University of Vienna (Austria). Venken joined the University of Luxembourg in November 2019. Her main research interests are transnational, transregional and comparative histories of Europe, migration, borderlands, oral history, the history of families and children, and citizen science. Together with Friederike Kind-Kovács, she is the author of the double special issue "1918, 1945, 1989: Childhood in Times of Political Transformation" ( und, published in the Journal of Modern European History (2021). 

PD. Dr. habil. Friederike Kind-Kovacs is since 2018 senior researcher at the Hannah-Arendt-Institute for Totalitarianism Studies at the TU Dresden. In 2019 she was habilitated in Southeast- and East European as well as Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Regensburg. In October 2019 she won for her habilitation, entitled Budapest’s Children: Destitution, Humanitarian Relief and the Revisionist Temptation after the Great War, the “Regensburg Prize for Women in Academia and the Arts.” She is the author of Written Here, Published There: How Underground Literature Crossed the Iron Curtain (CEU Press, 2014), a monograph for which she won the University of Southern California Book Prize in Cultural and Literary Studies in 2015. Her second book Budapest’s Children: Humanitarian Relief in the Aftermath of the Great War will be published by Indiana University Press in 2022.  

The lecture will take place in a hybrid format.