Routine Infanticide in the early modern West
Gregory Hanlon (Dalhousie University)
Paper short abstract:
Baptismal records and church censuses allow historians to spot considerable discrepancies in the sex ratios during the 17th and 18th centuries. However, girls were not always the victims of neo-natal infanticide, depending upon the social and economic contexts of the parents.
Paper long abstract:
Routine infanticide in the early modern West Studies of sex-ratio imbalances which chart the incidence of neo-natal infanticide in the developing world today, can be replicated in the baptismal registers and church censuses for Europe before 1800. The universality of the sacrament of baptism, and its rapid conferral in Catholic countries makes it possible to spot considerable discrepancies in the sex ratio. My research, and that of my students on Tuscany and Emilia in Italy, and on Aquitaine in France, shows that pre-baptismal infanticide was probably routine in difficult times during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but could victimize either girls or boys depending upon the economic and social context.
Uncertain beginnings: rethinking infanticide and end of life decision-making in infants