Degree Name






Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Leslee Thorne-Murphy

First Faculty Reader

A. Legrand Richards

Honors Coordinator

John Talbot


William Martin, Golden Age of Children's Literature, Charles Kingsley, Matthew Arnold, Herbert Spencer, 1862 Revised Code of Education


This thesis discusses the relationship between the start of the Golden Age of Children’s Literature and the educational policy and philosophy changes that took place in mid- to late-19th century England. Some scholars have argued that the reasons for the rise in fantasy literature that characterized the Golden Age of Children’s Literature are primarily economic, while others find philosophical and cultural precedents for the movement toward fantasy. This paper presents the work of William Martin as an example of how fantasy literature emerged. Martin’s work reveals that he was proactively experimenting with the fantasy genre in response to debates about education policy and philosophy that surrounded the creation of the first public education system in England. To show this, it compares Martin’s writings with Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies, a work that connects fantasy with moral development. The comparison reveals that both Martin and Kingsley worked to reconcile fantasy literature with rationalism, the advancement of science, and pedagogical theories. Ultimately, it argues that Martin’s work offers insights into the roots of the Golden Age of Children’s Literature because his work contributes to both the educational and literary conversations of the time.