The aim of the paper is to analyze the positions on children and education expressed in the writings of the 19th-century theistic evolutionists in the general context of the history of evolutionary thought. Theistic evolutionists
considered evolution not as an exclusively natural process, but as a creative activity on the part of God. The author shows that theistic evolutionists in fact returned to the Puritan understanding of childhood, which
assumes that a child is wicked from the very moment of his birth and that the principal end of education is to free him from this state and show him the way to moral life and civilization. However, most of the theistic evolutionists
rejected the traditional doctrine of original sin. Thus, their conclusion about the depravity of children was based not on religious — but on scientific grounds. The understanding of childhood in theistic evolutionism, as well as in evolutionism in general, revolved around the theory of recapitulation. The theory states that an organism — in the course of its individual development — repeats the evolution of its ancestors. Theistic evolutionists concluded from this theory that a child lives in a state of savagery and barbarism during his first years, much like the whole human race used to do many thousand years ago. The author demonstrates that Robert Chambers, an early theistic evolutionist, was the first to look at the problem of child education from the point of view of recapitulation theory. Theistic evolutionists of the later period repeatedly reaffirmed that children were no more than little savages whose animal impulses need to
be tamed and kept under control. The author points out that these ideas fit quite well with more general notions of childhood as these emerged in the Western civilization of the modern era. While the theistic evolutionists were not wholly original in their application of recapitulation theory to children, they made an important contribution to the development and popularization of this attitude. In particular, the theistic evolutionist Robert Chambers was the first who came to assess child development from the evolutionary point of view.
Keywords: childhood, theory of evolution, recapitulation, racism, psychology