Download e-book for kindle: A History of Infanticide in Britain c. 1600 to the Present by Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)

By Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)

ISBN-10: 1137349123

ISBN-13: 9781137349125

ISBN-10: 1349361402

ISBN-13: 9781349361403

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69 Such definitional inconsistencies were especially prevalent after Lord Hardwicke’s Clandestine Marriage Act came into force in England in 1754. This legislation outlawed previously ‘accepted’ versions of marriage which had been conducted outwith an officially sanctioned church ceremony. 72 Although questions remain about the rate and extent of illegitimacy during this era, the prevailing attitudes towards unmarried pregnancy seem to be uniform and unambiguous. Illegitimacy was clearly regarded by many as a social evil and an explicit example of deviant behaviour.

During the early modern period, legal authorities and social commentators alike often believed that in order to avoid both the social stigma from the moral lapse associated with illegitimacy and the economic misfortune that could result from such circumstances, women like Ann Price, whose case was cited at the outset of this chapter, resorted to infanticide. In this way, in the minds of contemporaries at least, illegitimacy and new-born child murder were inextricably linked. Moreover, it was upon a particular subset of unwed mothers that the focus of concern seemed to fall.

Unmarried mothers and infanticide Despite the relative infrequency of indictments for infanticide, perceptions of its inexorable rise, along with the very nature and context of the offence itself, meant that it became a real cause for concern in early modern Europe. In many ways, contemporaries’ understanding of the nature and incidence of infanticide in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries represented one of the first moral panics to occur across most of the northern hemisphere. The main reason for this anxiety was the way in which new-born child murder became inextricably linked to sexual non-conformity and illegitimacy.

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A History of Infanticide in Britain c. 1600 to the Present by Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)

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