America’s empire was not made by adults alone. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, young people became essential to its creation. Authors used children’s literature to promote America’s power and celebrate its growing global hegemony. And as kids eagerly read dime novels, series fiction, pulp magazines, and comic books that dramatized the virtues of empire, they helped entrench a growing belief in America’s indispensability to the international order. The modern era has been called both the “American Century” and the “Century of the Child.” This talk will illustrate how those conceptualizations came together by depicting children in their influential role as the junior partners of US imperial enterprise.
Brian Rouleau is a professor in the History Department at Texas A&M University. He teaches courses covering the United States, international relations, and childhood.