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HIST 3130 (66)


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University of Guelph
HIST 3130
Ashley Mathisen

Infanticide. it Defining infanticide and neglect .there was a blurred line between infanticide, abortion, still-birth, and other labour complications .infanticide was practiced in the ancient world until the catholic church introduced severe penalties in 906 .yet it continued throughout the middle ages and the early modern era Throughout history infanticide was: almost always gendered female, seen as a crime of desperation, linked to illegitimacy .considered crime committed by women with very few cases of men doing it. Linked to desperation of what to do with an illegitimate child. Certain times made people panic more about infanticide through moral panic. Courts and society didn’t always greet the woman with sympathy Commiting infanticide .usually young unmarried women out of financial hardship or mental anguish (postpartum depression). Promise to marry was considered married so people had pre-marital sex so lots of bastard children were born. Cities had more unmarried people having sex because of the anonymity that didn’t let many people know them. These women gave birth alone and away from their families. Circumstances of labour could lead to infanticide with a few babies being born in places that killed them such as a toilet because they didn’t know any better. Popular reactions to infanticide was not uniform. It was seen as a crime against womanhood and motherhood it was considered “monstorous” and unenlightened”. Concerns about illegitimacy was that elicit sex was a deep seated fear that it would ruin the family and society as a whole. Infanticide was closely connected with the conditions of domestic service. Domestic service accounted for 11.6% of the occupation of the total female population of England in 1881 (1.5 million women). The master or their son would impregnate the domestic servant and leave her alone to raise the child without a job. Women working in the manufacturing sector also resorted to infanticide, since they lacked arrangements for childcare .parents also chose infanticide for practical reasons. From 1576 JPS had the authority to jail parents who refused to maintain bastard children. This caused some people to kill their kids out of choice between that or jail. From 1610, jps could commit any woman who bore a bastard child to a house of correction for one year. This caused some people to kill their kids out of desperation. The new poor law (!834) stipulated that mothers of illegitimate children weren’t to receive outdoor relief (caused desperation as well). All of these were in place to stop illegitimate fertility but caused infanticide. Infanticide in the courts th .most women prosecuted for infanticide in the 18 century were acquitted. The crime was prosecuted under the act to prevent the destroying and murdering of bastard children (1624) if you couldn’t prove your baby was stillborn you could be convicted of infancticide. the act remained in force until lord ellenboroughs act (1803) which made concealment of births a separate conviction and judged infanticide by regular murder rules. There was ideas that infanticide as a crime didn’t justify execution. Juries tried to find out if violence was occurred on the child and if not they would be acquitted because th theyd be unsure if the baby was killed by labour complications. Late 17 century onwards there was an assumption that it was a mother who didn’t want the child. Parishes didn’t want illegitimate children in their parish and would try to locate the father so the parish didn’t have to raise the child because the child was a burden, the mother could kill the child to save face. .By the late 18 century, mental instability was being cited as a factor in infanticide cases. More and more medical practioners were being invited into the trial to present evidence. William hunter (1718- 1783) on of the most celebrated man-midwives of the day argued that a woman’s mental state after giving brith ought to be taken into consideration by
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