Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) on the education of children, as set out in his novel or treatise Emile, published in 1762. He held that children are born with natural goodness, which he sought to protect as they developed, allowing each to form their own conclusions from experience, avoiding the domineering influence of others. In particular, he was keen to stop infants forming the view that human relations were based on domination and subordination. Rousseau viewed Emile as his most imporant work, and it became very influential. It was also banned and burned, and Rousseau was attacked for not following these principles with his own children, who he abandoned, and for proposing a subordinate role for women in this scheme.
The image above is of Emile playing with a mask on his mother's lap, from a Milanese edition published in 1805.
Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History
Professor of French Literature and Thought at Jesus College, Oxford
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton
Producer: Simon Tillotson
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