By Anne-Marie Kilday
This paintings offers an in depth heritage of infanticide in mainland Britain from 1600 to the fashionable period for the first actual time. It examines continuity and alter within the nature and features of new-born baby homicide in Scotland, England and Wales over a chronology of greater than 4 centuries. along providing a comparative research of the kinds of people suspected of the offence, and a close appreciation of the several ways that the crime used to be performed, the paintings additionally exposes the wide nexus of causal components which underpinned its enactment. additionally, the paintings investigates the evolving perspective in social, scientific and felony contexts to the killing of younger babies in Britain over a great period of time. hence the paintings as an entire is either compelling and leading edge because it presents the reader with even more than an insignificant background of infanticide. The publication additionally contributes a lot to our figuring out of felony heritage, gender heritage, criminal background, clinical heritage and social background in its analyses of the various contexts allied to the offence. It does this additionally via its exploration of the complicated features of accusers, commentators and perpetrators throughout cultures, borders and time.
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Extra info for A History of Infanticide in Britain, c. 1600 to the Present
82 Despite a sterner approach to new-born child murder in some quarters of British society, problems and dissatisfaction with the legislation quickly arose elsewhere. 83 This resulted in various attempts to make the legislation more malleable through the permissibility of certain defences which could work to strongly undermine the initial charge laid. 84 In addition, the intended targets of the legislation, lewd women, were rarely indicted for the offence. Rather, it was far more common for women of a good character to be charged with new-born child murder, as they were more likely to have solid reputations to maintain.
For instance, when entering service, a woman was removed from her parental household and became exempt from its associated rules and restrictions. Whether this resulted in her being more promiscuous and sexually independent in comparison with other early modern working women is the subject of some conjecture. Certainly, however, she was more autonomous economically. 112 In order to maintain this ‘independent’ and seemingly privileged position, a female domestic servant had to behave respectfully and respectably at all times and, usually, she had to remain single and childless.
136 The second way in which a growing sympathy towards infanticide suspects became evident in prosecutions was the increased use and acceptance of mitigating circumstances, which were brought to the court’s attention via exculpatory evidence from the early 1700s onwards. 138 However, mitigation of this type was only successful if the accused woman was docile, meek and utterly remorseful when she appeared before the court.