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Dr Antonia Perna



I am a historian of French Revolutionary and Napoleonic culture, with a particular focus on childhood. My research concerns the politicisation of the eighteenth-century model of childhood innocence and the development of a privileged relationship between child and state, during the French Revolution. Additionally, I am interested in the transmission of political culture in this period, and especially in how ideas were transferred internationally and packaged for children beyond French borders along with revolutionary and Napoleonic expansion across Europe. I completed my PhD at Durham and then held a research fellowship at the British School at Rome, before returning to the department in autumn 2021. I also held a joint visiting fellowship at the Newberry Library, Chicago, and the John Rylands Research Insitute, Manchester, in 2018.

I am currently working towards a monograph concerning the role of children in the politics and culture of the French Revolution. My research demonstrates that children were integral to revolutionary culture, as symbols of innocence and purity, as the objects of education reforms, and as social actors who contributed to popular politics and civic life.

I am also researching childhood and education in the later years of the Revolution and in the Napoleonic Empire. This research covers Italy as well as France, with a particular focus on the transmission and adaptation of ideas via Italian children's books during the years of French influence, c. 1796–1814.

Research interests

  • Children's literature
  • Enlightenment
  • France in the long eighteenth century
  • French Revolutionary culture and society
  • History of childhood
  • Modern European cultural history
  • Napoleonic Empire