Media Releases and Opportunities

» Go to news main

Media opportunity: Parents routinely carried out infanticide to manage resources, maintain social status in early modern Europe: Dalhousie University researcher

Posted by Communications and Marketing on July 31, 2023 in News

Infanticide was practised much more frequently than previously thought in Italy, England and France in early modern Europe, according to a new book by a researcher at Dalhousie University that suggests the crime was routinely overlooked with the passage of time.

The fresh insight is at the heart of Death Control in the West 1500–1800: Sex Ratios at Baptism in Italy, France and England by Gregory Hanlon and contributors.

Prof. Hanlon, a distinguished research professor at Dalhousie, examined baptismal registers and ecclesiastical censuses from parishes in the three countries and found similar infanticide patterns in cities and the countryside for Catholics, Calvinists and Anglicans alike.

The records reveal startling spikes in the number of male baptisms in the aftermath of famines or diseases.

Prof. Hanlon’s research suggests a third of live births in rural Tuscany may have been the victims of infanticide at the height of the practice. In the 17th century there, parents seemed willing to sacrifice a child if they were a twin, opting to keep just one of the newborns.

Prof. Hanlon is available to discuss his research and how it shines a light on the many infants whose lives were not recorded and whose deaths went unpunished.


Media contact:

Alison Auld 
Senior Research Reporter 
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services 
Dalhousie University 
Cell: 1-902-220-0491 


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus