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By Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)

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Although men were actively and indirectly involved in the perpetration of new-born child murder in the early modern period, as both assailants and accomplices, this offence was dominated by women. 23 Moreover, as Chapter 4 illustrates, collaborators or accessories in cases of new-born child murder tended to be female rather than male, largely mirroring the gendered nature of the network of childbirth and maternity during the pre-modern era. Women also predominate amongst those indicted as the principal suspects in episodes of infanticide across both Europe and North America at this time.

56 Yet, the suggestion of a more liberated attitude to sexual activity at this time is strongly refuted by the work of Nicholas Rogers. Rogers’ evidence from ecclesiastical court testimonies convincingly argues that the sexual encounters men and women enjoyed during the early modern period were not of a casual nature, as the sexual revolution theory implies. 57 Moreover, if early modern society had become more promiscuous at that time, given the absence of effective contraceptive methods and devices, surely the illegitimacy rates would have been far higher than they appear.

The ninth of May. (London: J. Trundle); and Bloody Newes from Dover. Being a True Relation of the Great and Bloudy Murder, Committed by Mary Champion (an Anabaptist) who Cut off her Childs Head, being 7. weekes old, and Held it to her Husband to Baptize. Printed in the Yeare of Discovery, Feb. 13. N). ] Investigating Infanticide – An Enduring Phenomenon 21 Fox, the proponents of reform articulated the concerns outlined above by arguing that: …nothing could be more unjust, or inconsistent with the principles of all law, than first to force a woman through modesty to concealment, and then to hang her for that concealment; that it was infinitely better that ten guilty persons should escape, than one innocent person should suffer; that this law, on the contrary, asserted it to be better, that ten innocent persons should be hanged, than one guilty person should escape...

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