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Accused of Infanticide: Evolution of a Criminal Offence in Popular Culture, 1680-1849 (by Tammy Cairns)


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Accused of Infanticide: Evolution of a Criminal Offence in Popular Culture, 1680-1849 (by Tammy Cairns)

Infanticide has always been a highly emotive crime which draws upon pre-conceived ideas of femininity and maternal instinct. From the early modern period up until today, women accused of this crime have been vilified as unnatural beastly characters, capable of killing their own offspring and trying to conceal the evidence. Despite how these women have been portrayed, between 1600 and 1803 the law and parliament substantially altered how those accused were prosecuted and tried for their crimes. Throughout this essay I will be looking at the Old Bailey Proceedings between 1680 and 1849 in order to determine how infanticide changed from a crime where the defendant needed to prove their innocence, to one in which the courts needed to determine the defendant’s guilt. The trials recorded on the Old Bailey Online only highlight the number of cases that went to trial, this in no way portrays the true number of…

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