The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance
In The Kindness of Strangers, John Boswell argues persuasively that child abandonment was a common and morally acceptable practice from antiquity until the Renaissance. Using a wide variety of sources, including drama and mythological-literary texts as well as demographics, Boswell examines the evidence that parents of all classes gave up unwanted children, "exposing" them in public places, donating them to the church, or delivering them in later centuries to foundling hospitals. The Kindness of Strangers presents a startling history of the abandoned child that helps to illustrate the changing meaning of family.
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aban abandoned children adopted alumni ancient appears baby birth bishop Caesar of Heisterbach canon chap chapter chil child child abandonment Christian church cited common contemporary context Controversiae daughter death discussion donment dren early medieval early Middle Ages Europe evidence example exposed children Eyben fact father foundling homes foundling hospitals girl Gratian Greek heirs Herlihy High Middle Ages History holy household ibid illegitimate incest infanticide infants inheritance Jewish Jews killing king L'Enfant later Latin literary literature male marriage married ment monastery monastic monk moral mother natal natal parents Nun of Watton nurse oblation offspring pagan Paris percent Plautus Plutarch poor population probably prohibited Quintilian reared reclaim religious Roman law Rome rules saga sell servants sexual simply slavery slaves social society someone sources specifically status story suggests thirteenth century tion trans translation twelfth century Vita wife women