Infanticide: Historical Perspectives on Child Murder and Concealment, 1550-2000 / Edition 1

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The history of infanticide from the 16th through to the late 20th century is the subject of this volume. Collectively, the contributions explore how the concealment of pregnancy, birth and death, particularly by unmarried women, became a central preoccupation of witnesses, doctors, courts and legislatures concerned with suspicious infant deaths. While the emphasis is upon Britain, original and stimulating accounts of infanticide accusations and trials in France, Germany, and South Africa provide compelling comparative analyses. Presenting a series of case studies, successive chapters expose striking continuities, across both time and space, in the social history of infanticide.

Clearly written, focusing on a range of original cases and documents, and addressing critical historiographical questions, Infanticide will be invaluable to historians and students researching the social history of medicine, law, crime, and gender. In addition, it will appeal to lawyers, doctors, and others interested in understanding the historical roots of modern debates about infanticide.

Author Biography: About the Editor: Mark Jackson, Senior Lecturer Department of History, University of Exeter, UK.

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Editorial Reviews

Covering the history of infanticide from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries, 13 chapters document how the concealment of pregnancy, birth, and death, particularly by unmarried women, became a central concern of doctors, courts, and lawmakers. Case studies reflect the course of this development as it occurred in France, Germany, South Africa, and (especially) England. The contributors are scholars of history, medical history, law, and cultural studies. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780754603184
  • Publisher: Ashgate Publishing, Limited
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

List of figures and tables
Notes on the contributors
1 The trial of Harriet Vooght: continuity and change in the history of infanticide 1
2 Accusations of infanticide on the eve of the French Wars of Religion 18
3 Infanticide in early modern England: the Court of Great Sessions at Chester, 1650-1800 35
4 'The unfortunate maid exemplified': Elizabeth Canning and representations of infanticide in eighteenth-century England 52
5 Bodies of evidence, states of mind: infanticide, emotion and sensibility in eighteenth-century England 73
6 Infanticide and the erotic plot: a feminist reading of eighteenth-century crime 93
7 Infanticide, slavery and the politics of reproduction at Cape Colony, South Africa, in the 1820s 128
8 The murder of Thomas Sandles: meanings of a mid-nineteenth-century infanticide 149
9 Getting away with murder? Puerperal insanity, infanticide and the defence plea 168
10 Images and impulses: representations of puerperal insanity and infanticide in late Victorian England 193
11 The boundaries of Her Majesty's Pleasure: discharging child-murderers from Broadmoor and Perth Criminal Lunatic Department, c. 1860-1920 216
12 Legislating for human nature: legal responses to infanticide, 1860-1938 249
13 'Nothing in between': modern cases of infanticide 270
Index 287
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