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Childhood mortality and quality of care among abandoned children in nineteenth-century Italy

By David I. Kertzer, Wendy Sigle-Rushton and Michael J. White


A great deal of scholarly attention has been devoted in recent years to the large-scale abandonment of newborn babies in the European past, with special emphasis given to the staggering rates of infant mortality among the foundlings. For the most part, scholars have agreed with the foundling home officials of the past in assigning much of the blame for this excess mortality to the women who took in the foundlings as wetnurses and subsequently as foster mothers. This article takes issue with this view, based on an examination of the children abandoned at the foundling home of Bologna, Italy in the nineteenth century. Four cohorts of foundlings are examined - those abandoned in 1809-30, 1829-30, 1849-50, and 1869-70 (N=3615) - as we trace the changing pattern of infant and early childhood mortality. Longitudinal methods are used in examining the life course of these foundlings and the determinants of their mortality

Topics: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman, HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Publisher: Routledge
Year: 1999
DOI identifier: 10.1080/00324720308085
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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