Figure 1.--

Jean Jacques Rousseau (France, 1712-78)


Jean Jacques mother died in childbirth. His father was a dissipated and violent-tempered man.Turin.


Jean Jacques was born in Geneva duing 1712. He did not have a happy childhood. He grew up motherless because his mother died in giving birth to him. His father gave little attention to him and eventually deserted him. as a child Jean Jacques loved to read and Plutarch's Lives


Jean Jacques was apprenticed to a notary first and later to a coppersmith,. He was unhappy with the discipline involved and rar away in 1728 at age 16 years.

Madame de Warens

The run away apretice was taken in by Roman Catholic priests at Consignon in Savoy. They turned him over to Madame de Warens at Annecy. She sent him to school at Turin where he rnounced Protestantism. He then worked in different households. These were not always happy experiences. One of his employers charged him wit theft. After wandering again he rejoined Madame de Warens who had moved to Chambery by 1730. He spent 8 years with her. He did not have to work. He was able to enjoy nature. He purued various studies on his own, music, English, German, and French philosophers, chemistry, mathematics , and Latin. He also attending the playhouse and opera.

The Enligtenment

The Enlightenment or the Age of Reason describes the period in Europe and America during the 18th century when civilization emergd into a new age of reason, science, and respect for humanity. The Enligtenment elevated reason as the ultimate value in human socirty. It was during the Enlightenment that men increasingly concluded that human reason such as evidenced ny Newton could discover the natural laws of the universe. Increasing thought began to determine the natural rights of mankind. The concept of progress appeared in Western thought at this time. European thinkers began to see a future of unending progress in knowledge, technical achievement, and moral values. Rosseau differed from many thinkers of the began a reaction to the age of reason. Rosseau argued that feeling ws an imfortant par of man's character.

View of Childhood

Philosophers such as the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau advocated increased freedom for children. He and others promoted play, especially out-of-doors, for developing physical strength. Child's play came to embody innocence, a romanticized world lost to adults and recorded by many artists. When the childless artist and poet William Blake observed a group of children playing in London's Fountain Court, he exclaimed, "That is heaven!" Rosseau looked askance at urbanity, social graces, and high fashion seeing these nd other aspects ofmodern life as evil. His solution was a return to nature. He admired the simplicity of unspoiled savages in America and the simplicuty of childhood.

Rosseau's respect for childhood influenced educational theory on all levels. The force of his and other reformers' ideas and the economic and social changes underway at mid-Century gradually affected the European approach to childhood. Indeed, more and more children by the mid-17th Century were receiving at least a rudimentary education, and artists recorded such instructional settings in picturesque fashion.

Part of his vies on raising children was the importance of mother's nursng their children. He advised the wealty not to obtain wet nurses. He saw the the only proper role of women as wives and mothers.

View of Education

Jean-Jacques Rousseau revolutionized English thinking on education in the 1760s by arguing that "experience," that is to say education, was a mixed blessing. His slender volume Emile, ou de l'Education, published in 1762 caused a sensation. He acknowleged his debt to Locke. He presented revolutionary precepts on education. According to Rousseau, the child should be allowed to run about "idly at hazard" until age 12, protected from harmful experience of the world by a tutor or guide.


Two of his most famous books are Emile and Eloise. In Emile he argued that children should allowed freedom to romp and play an that books should not be introduced before age 12 years. Written as a novel, he argued that parents should forget about book learning and let their children romp outside. He was concerned that book learning damaged natural high spirits. He dealt with forbiden love in Eloise.


Rosseau inspired great controversy. His books were considered so revolutionary that they weres actually banned in several countries and he had to flee France for England where he lived in Stratforshire. Even Rosseau's suporters had trouble defending him. His progressive ideas on childraising seemed to many dishonest given the fact that he abandoned his five illegitimate children to a foundling hospital. He claimed that he did it for their own good as he could not write and support them at the same time. The conditions in such institutions, however, make one wonder how the same mind that conceived of amore hymane approach to childhood could have condemned his own children to foundling hospital.

Christopher Wagner

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main biography M-R page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: November 8, 2002
Last updated: November 18, 2002