By Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)
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Extra info for A History of Infanticide in Britain c. 1600 to the Present
101 The high incidence of domestic servants as leading protagonists in recorded episodes of infanticide is the third typical characteristic of this offence which will be examined in this chapter. One reason why so many domestic servants were indicted for new-born child murder relates to the broad definition of their occupational status. During the early modern period a servant could undertake a multitude of tasks in a given household, including cooking, catering, sewing, mending, cleaning, attending, nursing, childminding, washing laundry, ploughing, planting, animal husbandry, and harvesting, and any or all of these duties could be part of a servant’s daily experience.
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. Certainly, it is hard to discern the accuracy of birth registration in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 69 Such definitional inconsistencies were especially prevalent after Lord Hardwicke’s Clandestine Marriage Act came into force in England in 1754.
12 The court decided to dismiss Ann’s pleas in defence, and instead reiterated its opinion that ‘the concealing of the child [was]… a material point of evidence against her’. 13 The case against Ann Price includes elements which mean that it can be regarded – at first sight – as a typical example of an indictment for infanticide in the early modern period. Indeed, these elements appear to be so common amongst new-born child murder episodes from this era that they could be said to embody an archetype of infanticide, accepted by contemporary authorities, social commentators and historians alike.