Dickens’s Most Neglected Book: A Child’s History of England

Yet another reason to take another look at what Dickens has to tell us.

Interesting Literature

In this week’s Dispatches from the Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle celebrates Dickens’s forgotten history book for children

A Child’s History of England (1851-3) occupies a unique place among Dickens’s works. The only one written specifically for children, and the only book-length work of history he wrote, it is the most neglected of all his books, and has long been overlooked by both critics and readers. There has been no scholarly edition of A Child’s History of England published by any of the leading publishers, and few studies of Dickens’s writing – even his non-fiction writing – provide any sustained analysis or treatment of the book. Critical opinion has generally been unfavourable: epithets including ‘puerile’ and ‘weak’ have been used to describe it.  G. K. Chesterton’s tart dismissal has been echoed by the succeeding generations: ‘It is indeed A Child’s History of England, but the child is the…

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