The Kindness of Strangers - the Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance / Edition 2

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In The Kindness of Strangers, John Boswell argues persuasively that child abandonment was a common and morally acceptable practice from antiquity until the Renaissance. Using a wide variety of sources, including drama and mythological-literary texts as well as demographics, Boswell examines the evidence that parents of all classes gave up unwanted children, "exposing" them in public places, donating them to the church, or delivering them in later centuries to foundling hospitals. The Kindness of Strangers presents a startling history of the abandoned child that helps to illustrate the changing meaning of family.

A pioneering inquiry into an unexplored corner of the Western past - the widespread abandonment of children throughout the Middle Ages.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books - Bernard Knox
"Highly original, learned, and skillfully written. . . . A mine of fascinating and surprising information about every aspect of the history of family limitation in ancient, medieval, and Renaissance Europe."
New Yorker - George Steiner
"A formidably learned, ingenious, at times eloquent investigation. Professor Boswell is a young historian of rare force and originality."
New York Times Book Review - Mary Martin McLaughlin
"Bold, original and, very likely, controversial. . . . This is a pioneering work of large importance, the first to map out and explore a tangled, mysterious region of human experience."
Library Journal
The author of the widely acclaimed Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (LJ 6/1/80) has now given us this original and fascinating work on abandoned children. It should be made available to every student of medieval and early modern Europe. And at a time when abortion, child abuse, and abandonment are much in the news, the book should have broad general interest. Abandonment of children--by leaving them, selling them, or consigning them to someone else--was practiced from Greek antiquity to early modern times by parents of all social classes, because of poverty, incest, shame, self-interest, inheritance, or to improve the child's future. Most children were rescued and survived due to ``the kindness of strangers.'' Based on a careful exploration of ancient and medieval sources, this book will deservedly win a wide audience.-- Bennett D. Hill, Georgetown Univ., Washington, D.C.
Mary McLoughlin
This is a poineering work of large importance, the first to map out and explore a tangled, myterious region of human experience...Beswell sets a standard of excellence.
New York Times Book Review
From Barnes & Noble
A pioneering inquiry into an unexplored corner of Western history: the widespread abandonment of children throughout classical antiquity and the Middle Ages. "A learned and lively book, which is...likely to prove controversial..."-- Boston Globe.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226067124
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 506
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Pt. I: Ancient Patterns
1. Rome: The Historical Skeleton
2. Rome: Literary Flesh and Blood
3. Fathers of the Church and Parents of Children
Pt. II: The Early Middle Ages
4. Variations on Familiar Patterns
5. A Christian Innovation: Oblation
6. Demographic Overview
Pt. III: The High Middle Ages
7. New Demographics: 1000-1200
8. Oblation at Its Zenith
9. The Thirteenth Century: Abandonment Resumes
10. Literary Witnesses
Pt. IV: The Later Middle Ages
11. Continuities and Unintended Tragedy
12. Conclusions
Appendix of Translations
Frequently Cited Works

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  • Posted May 11, 2011

    very satisfied

    thank you

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