This essay offers an extensive rehabilitation and reappraisal of the concept of childhood innocence as a means of testing the boundaries of some prevailing constructions of childhood. It excavates in detail some of the lost histories of innocence in order to show that these are more diverse and more complex than established and pejorative assessments of them conventionally suggest. Recovering, in particular, the forgotten pedigree of the Romantic account of the innocence of childhood underlines its depth and furnishes an enriched understanding of its critical role in the coming of mass education - both as a catalyst of social change and as an alternative measure of the child-centeredness of the institutions of public education. Now largely and residually confined to the inheritance of nursery education, the concept of childhood innocence, and the wider Romantic project of which it is an element, can help question the assumptions underpinning modern, competence-centred philosophies of childhood
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