By Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)

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Extra resources for A History of Infanticide in Britain c. 1600 to the Present

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Although the statutory provision remained steadfast in 1772, it was not long before dissatisfaction with legislation was renewed. Indeed, over the four centuries since 1624 there has rarely been a time when authoritative, legislative and popular opinion towards the crime of new-born child murder has remained either unequivocal or uncontroversial. 89 From the bastardy and concealment-focused legislation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, through the legislative reforms and attempts to protect infant life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to the preoccupation with 22 A History of Infanticide in Britain understanding the psycho-social causes of infanticide in the present day, new-born child murder has endured as a tragic but fascinating component of criminal history.

Although men could, on occasion, be involved in episodes of infanticide, on the whole women accused of this crime significantly outnumbered men. 14 The second typical characteristic of indictments for infanticide in the early modern period was that the vast majority of defendants were unmarried. 17 This was because the women concerned had not only engaged in what was perceived to be illicit sexual activity, but had also committed a crime regarded as irreconcilable with expected feminine behaviour.

64 ‘Courtship intensity’ appears to have decreased in times of hardship and increased in times of economic stability or growth. 65 The fractured courtship hypothesis appears convincing in relation to England, based on the evidence to date. What it also reflects, however, is the importance of the local and regional context in understanding why illegitimacy increased in a given place at a given time. 67 One final explanation for increases in the illegitimacy rate during the early modern period relates to the records of the births themselves.

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