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Childhood in Rostock, on the Baltic Coast, as seen through the Lens of the Enlightenment and Rationalist Medical Science (1807)

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A second essential requisite of our animal organization is the air, whose influence on the child’s body has already been indicated so decidedly, [ . . . ]. As long as the children cannot leave the nursery, or at least have to spend much time in it, the parents should above all else take care to give them a rather wholesome nursery. However, people indeed think about this too rarely yet. Even if I do not wish to say anything here about the lowly tradesman or laborer, who have to limit themselves to a very small and cramped dwelling in the first place, [ . . . ]: the more prosperous and distinguished inhabitants could surely do more for the health of their children on this account than actually takes place. By virtue of the furnishings of the local gabled houses, a great many nurseries are shifted to the back buildings, where it is certainly the quietest and calmest. By contrast, these rooms usually have the windows facing toward a small, confined, and presumably also dirty yard; therefore, most of the time, they also lack sufficient light, and if the windows are opened from time to time, they still do not receive in this way any pure and healthy air. Moreover, on the whole, the windows are opened only rarely; in the wintertime, people dry the children’s damp laundry on the stove, allowing the air to be polluted and spoiled in an often really irresponsible manner by the rest of the domestics staying in such rooms, eating, drinking, sleeping, and performing other business there. [ . . . ]

What seems particularly important to me, however, is that one removes the servants, who have such an adverse influence in many ways on the younger and older children, from the nurseries, and that, in addition, one makes a greater effort toward cleanliness overall. [ . . . ]

As soon as the children have grown up to the point when they can walk, they usually like to escape the air of the closed room. Then they run around between the houses or in front of the doors, and most likely they are sent into the fresh air as well. The children of those parents that I group among the lowest class of inhabitants, and probably also those of the tradesmen, are generally in the habit of spending the entire day on the streets, in which situation they seem to feel just fine. However, in spite of this, I cannot condone this loitering around on the streets, and the police ought not to tolerate it. For even without considering that children who lack supervision learn all sorts of evil habits from each other, they all too easily run the danger of falling, being kicked, pushed, and run over. [ . . . ]

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