Young Subjects (Book)

Young Subjects: Children, State-Building, and Social Reform in the 18th-Century French World 

March 15, 2021, McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Book cover for Young Subjects that shows two young students speaking with a schoolmaster in a bustling school house in the seventeenth century.

An exploration of children’s engagement in state-building and social reform in eighteenth-century France and its empire.

Across the metropole, the colonies, and the wider eighteenth-century world, French children and youth participated in a diverse set of state-building initiatives, social reform programs, and imperial expansion efforts. Young Subjects explores the lives and experiences of these youth, revealing their role as active and vital agents in the shaping of early modern France.

Through a set of regional case studies, Julia Gossard demonstrates how thousands of children and youth were engaged in the service of the state. In Lyon, charity schools cultivated children as agents of moral and social reform who carried their lessons home to their families. In Paris, orphaned and imprisoned youth trained in skilled trades or prepared for military service, while others were sent to the French colonies in North America as filles du roi and sturdy labourers. Young people from merchant families were recruited to serve as cultural brokers and translators on behalf of French commerical interests in the Ottoman Empire and Siam. In each case, Gossard considers how these youth played, negotiated, and sometimes resisted their roles, and what expressions of individual identity and agency were available to subjects under the legal control of others.

As sources of labour, future taxpayers, colonial subjects, cultural mediators, and potential criminals, children and youth were objects of intense interest for civic authorities. Young Subjects refocuses our attention on these often overlooked historical subjects who helped to build France.

Awards, Grants, and Fellowships that Supported Research and Writing of Young Subjects:

External Awards:

  • Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture’s Colloquia Series, 2019
  • Bernadotte E Schmitt Research Grant, American Historical Association, 2017
  • Short Term Research Fellowship, The Newberry Library, Chicago, IL June 2017
  • The Society for French Historical Studies Marjorie M. and Lancelot L. Farrar Memorial Award for the Best Dissertation in Progress at a North American University, 2012
  • American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Robert R. Palmer Research Travel Award, 2012
  • The Mellon Summer Institute in French Paleography at the Newberry Library, Summer 2012
  • Newberry Renaissance Consortium Grant, Spring 2012

Internal Awards:

  • CHaSS & History Subvention Grant, 2020
  • Creative Activity and Research Enhancement Award, CHaSS, USU 2018-19
  • Seed Grant Award, CHaSS, USU 2019
  • Travel Grants, History Department, Utah State University (USU) 2017-2020
  • The University of Texas Graduate School Named/Endowed Fellowship, The Graduate School, The University of Texas at Austin, 2014-2015
  • Departmental Research Fellowship, History Department, The University of Texas at Austin, 2012-2013
  • Professional Development Grant, The Graduate School, The University of Texas at Austin, Fall 2013
  • Research Travel Grant, History Department, The University of Texas at Austin, Summer 2012