Dr Afua Twum-Danso Imoh has successfully secured a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship award to explore how the notion of a ‘proper’ childhood for all was exported from Britain in the 19th Century to Ghana, West Africa.

Children have long been the focus of civilising missions, not just in distant lands but within Western Europe. Efforts, mainly by middle class reformers, to universalise a ‘proper’ childhood in Western Europe are well documented. However, relatively little is known about the implications of these attempts for native populations in colonies acquired by governments of these European countries at a time when their societies were in the process of reconstructing and negotiating constructions of childhood.

Afua’s project, ‘Travelling Concepts: Exporting a ‘Proper’ Childhood for All from Britain to the Gold Coast’, will go as far back as the 19th early 20th centuries to examine the implications of these developments in Britain for indigenous populations in the British colony of the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana). She will also explore the reactions of colonised subjects to encountering this ‘proper’ childhood in their contexts, and will examine the legacy of these efforts for present-day Ghanaian society.

Through the research, which will begin in January 2018, Afua hopes to engage with policymakers at national level, charities both in the UK and overseas, the media and also the general public.
It is expected that Afua’s research as part of this fellowship will lead to a book, journal articles and a documentary film.

Afua said: “I am really pleased to receive this award. I view this Fellowship as an opportunity to go back to my history-based roots. I also see it as an opportunity to develop key public engagement and communication skills, not only in the UK but in Ghana, where most of my research takes place.”

The British Academy Mid-Career Fellowships are designed both to support outstanding individual researchers with excellent research proposals, and to promote public understanding and engagement with humanities and social sciences.

Afua added: “I am hopeful that this fellowship will further strengthen my position as an interdisciplinary researcher whose work cuts across both the humanities and social sciences.”