Criminology

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By Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)

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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.

You might argue, then, as a result, that Ann Price was comparatively unlucky in terms of when she was indicted. If her case had come to trial just a few decades later, it is unlikely that she would have suffered the same fate. In Britain, Europe and North America, by the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, ‘popular’ attitudes to infanticide were clear, consistent and unremitting. 126 We saw previously that prosecutions for infanticide persisted over the early modern period within this broad context of denunciation, but, as Chapter 6 will show, attitudes towards this offence, and the individuals who perpetrated it, began to change over the course of the eighteenth century.

46 As we have already seen, the predominance of unmarried women in indictments for new-born child murder was largely a product of the statutory provision under which they were prosecuted. In essence, the laws against infanticide could only be levelled at ‘bastard-bearers’ or unwed mothers with any effectiveness, and thus indictment statistics merely reflect this legislative bias. 32 A History of Infanticide in Britain This chapter has already dispelled the notion that new-born child murder was a frequently indicted offence during the early modern period.

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