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Savage Girls and Wild Boys

Michael Newton

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A compelling history of extraordinary children – brought up by animals, growing up alone in the wilderness, or locked for long years in solitary confinement.

Wild or feral children have fascinated us down the centuries, and continue to do so today. Michael Newton deftly investigates such infamous cases as Peter the Wild Boy, who gripped the attention of Swift and Defoe; Memmie Le Blanc, the savage Girl of Champagne, a primitive outsider adrift on the streets of Enlightenment; Kaspar Hauser, a romantic orphan confined in a dungeon from infancy for sixteen years; Kamala and Amala, two girls brought up by wolves in the imperial India of the 1920s; and more recently, Genie, the girl locked up in a single room in Los Angeles throughout her whole childhood. He looks too at a boy bought up among monkeys in Uganda; and in Moscow, the boy found living with a pack of wild dogs.Savage Girls and Wild Boys looks at the lives of these children and of the adults who ‘rescued’ them, looked after them, educated or abused them. How can we explain the mixture of disgust and envy such children can provoke? And what can they teach us about our notions of education and civilisation?


Michael Newton is the author of Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children and of a book on Kind Hearts and Coronets for the BFI Film Classics Series. He has also edited Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent (Penguin Classics), Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son (Oxford World Classics) and The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories. He has taught at…

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