This crisp and even cavalier telegram has a distant father allowing his four children to sail to an island in a lake and camp out for a week or two.

Given their apparent age (circa 6-12), the fact that the smallest can’t swim, and the lack of supervision, life-jackets or mobile phones, these books left me wondering if parents were more relaxed or negligent, or if the world was safer, or if we just molly-coddle?

As a non-parent, I’m not qualified to draw conclusions, but the Ransome books, written in the 1930s, seem to assume that if you let them off the leash, kids won’t be ‘duffers’ (idiots).

‘BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WONT DROWN.’

Source: Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons (London: Vintage, 2015 (1930)), p. 3

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