The theme of this extraordinary book is the evolution of the modern conception of family life and the modern image; of the nature of children. Aries traces the evolution of the concept of childhood from the end of the Middle Ages, when the child was regarded as a small adult, to the present child-centered society, by means of diaries, paintings, games, and school curricula.
Ironically, he finds that individualism, far from triumphing in our time, has been held in check by the family, and that the increasing power of the tightly-knit family circle has flourished at the expense of the rich-textured communal society of earlier times. Translated from the French by Robert Baldick.
Philippe Ariès was an important French medievalist and historian of the family and childhood. He is also the author of Centuries of Childhood, which was translated into English in 1962. He died in Paris in 1984.