Massacre of the Innocents: Infanticide in Great Britain 1800-1939, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Massacre of the Innocents

Infanticide in Great Britain 1800-1939, 1st Edition

By Lionel Rose


222 pages

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Before contraception was generally available, and when abortion was fraught with danger, infanticide was a common solution to the problem of unwanted children. Massacre of the Innocents, first published in 1986, shows the causes and consequences of the high tide of infanticide in Victorian Britain.

Lionel Rose describes the ways in which unwanted and ‘surplus’ infants were disposed of, and the economic and social pressures on women to rid themselves of their burdens by covert criminal and sub-criminal means. He discusses the activities of infanticidal and abortionist midwives, and shows how the practices of wet nursing and baby farming were closely related to infanticide. Unscrupulous insurance salesman even turned infanticide into a profitable business, in their reckless grab for commissions. Infanticide declined with the growing practice of contraception, the lessening of pressure of unmarried mothers, and as adoption was made easier.

This is a hard-hitting, scrupulously documented piece of social history. This title will be of interest to students of history and criminology.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; Acknowledgements; 1. Setting the Scene 2. Infant Mortality: ‘The Waste of Infant Life’ 3. The Economic and Sexual Vulnerability of Women 4. Bastardy and the Poor Law in Mid-Victorian England 5. Infanticide and the Mid-Victorian Conscience 1830-70 (I) 6. Infanticide and the Mid-Victorian Conscience (II): The Milk of Human Kindness 7. Coroners, Inquests and the Exposure of Infanticide 8. Infanticide and the Law 1803-70 9. Lifting the Lid on Midwives and Baby-Farmers 1869-71 10. ‘Churchyard Luck’: Midwives and Murder 11. The South London Baby-Farmers 1870 12. Infant Life Protection Legislation 1870-90 13. Bastardy, Seduction and Infanticide Law Reform 1870-1900 14. Cradle and Grave: Birth and Death Registration and Infanticide 15. Burial Insurance and Child Murder (I) 16. Burial Insurance and Child Murder (II) 17. Infant Life Protection 1890-1914 18. Bastardy, Eugenics and Affiliation Law Reform to 1939 19. Infant Conservation 1890-1920 20. The Disappearance of Baby-Farming 1920-39; Conclusion; Notes and References; Select Bibliography and Abbreviations; Index

About the Author

Multivolume collection by leading authors in the field

About the Series

Routledge Library Editions: The History of Crime and Punishment

This set reissues ten books that explore the history of crime and punishment. The titles, which were originally published between 1970 and 1988, examine many different aspects of historical criminology over a span of over 400 years, with particular focus on the nineteenth-century. This set will be of particular interest to students of both history and criminology.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
HISTORY / Social History