In Spinning Tops and Gumdrops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood, author Edwin Barnard offers a captivating look at what childhood was really like in Australia during the colonial era of 1788–1900. This was a time when imagination, skill and daring was the source of children's play. It was also a time when schoolyard disagreements were resolved with fists, when children could view public hangings and when premature death was frequent.
Children were often required to work"many at adult jobs"to the neglect of their education, and photographs featured in the book show children tending animals, harvesting crops and working in factories and bakeries.
Throughout the book, Barnard also explores the distinctive gender roles and associated dress conventions. As a practical solution to ease toilet training, boys generally wore dresses until five or six years of age. Meanwhile, girls' dresses became longer as they approached womanhood, coinciding with a greater emphasis on modest behaviour and a reshaping of their activity and education to gain home-making skills.
Filled with personal accounts, photographs, etchings and paintings of colonial children, Spinning Tops and Gumdrops provides a fascinating insight into the resilience and self-sufficiency displayed by these children during a transformative time in Australia's history.
Edwin Barnard is fascinated by the everyday lives of men, women and children who helped to create Australia's identity. These lives form the focus of all his books, including this one. Previous titles include Exiled: Port Arthur Convict Photographs and Capturing Time. Edwin grew up on the outskirts of a country town in the 1950s and currently lives in Sydney.
Spinning Tops and Gumdrops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood
Author: Edwin Barnard