The history of childhood has been a topic of interest in social history since the highly influential book Centuries of Didactic games touch parenting, published by French historian Philippe Ariès in 1960. Other scholars have emphasized how medieval and early modern child rearing was not indifferent, negligent, nor brutal. Playing Children, by Song Dynasty Chinese artist Su Hanchen, c.
Historians had assumed traditional families in the preindustrial era involved the extended family, with grandparent, parents, children and perhaps some other relatives all living together and ruled by an elderly patriarch. There were examples of this in the Balkans—and in aristocratic families. In medieval Europe there was a model of distinct stages of life, which demarcated when childhood began and ended. A new baby was a notable event. Nobles immediately started thinking of a marriage arrangement that would benefit the family. Birthdays were not major events as the children celebrated their saints’ day after whom they were named.
Education in the sense of training was the exclusive function of families for the vast majority of children until the 19th century. In the Middle Ages the major cathedrals operated education programs for small numbers of teenage boys designed to produce priests. In England in the Elizabethan era, the transmission of social norms was a family matter and children were taught the basic etiquette of proper manners and respecting others. During the 1600s, a shift in philosophical and social attitudes toward children and the notion of ‘childhood’ began in Europe. Adults increasingly saw children as separate beings, innocent and in need of protection and training by the adults around them.