Sara Margaret Butler deposited “A Case of Indifference? Child Murder in Later Medieval England.” in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 years, 8 months ago
Art historian Barbara Kellum’s 1973 article on child murder in medieval England paints a picture of a world replete with ruthless and murderous single mothers who escaped the legal consequences of their actions due to an indifferent court system that chose to turn a blind eye to the deaths of young children. Despite the overstated tone of her work, it remains the most systematic study of child murder in the medieval English context. Employing a sampling of 131 instances of child murder (including 144 victims), drawn from royal and ecclesiastical courts from the late thirteenth to the early sixteenth centuries, the current investigation asks us to rethink these early conclusions. Infanticide was a felony in the Middle Ages and neither jurors nor royal officials treated child murder with indifference. Nevertheless, it is clear that both gender and marital status guided the courts in their decisions throughout the legal process in terms of indicting, prosecuting, and sentencing defendants in cases of child murder.