By Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)
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Extra info for A History of Infanticide in Britain c. 1600 to the Present
However, it is also clear that where a case came to light in the aftermath of the initial application of the statute, the evidence required to indict and convict did not have to be as strong. In other words, the evidence used in these cases became more critical to judicial verdicts as time went on. 124 Statutes were more rigorously enforced in the initial decades following their ratification. You might argue, then, as a result, that Ann Price was comparatively unlucky in terms of when she was indicted.
However, it was still only a little more than one prosecution per year. 4 Indictments and convictions for infanticide and concealment in Scotland, 1700–1799 Note: All female except for 13 individual male indictments in 1702, 1706, 1720, 1747, 1751, 1754, 1757, 1758, 1765, 1770, 1791, 1797, and 1798. 43 This means that on average more than four cases of new-born child murder a year were brought before these Scottish courts. Whilst this figure seems to imply a The Archetype of Infanticide in the Early Modern Period d 31 higher incidence of recorded infanticide than that encountered elsewhere (perhaps on account of the effectiveness of surveillance and vigilance within the northern parish context), it is, of course, a national rather than a regional statistic, and needs to be considered in this light.
During the early modern period, legal authorities and social commentators alike often believed that in order to avoid both the social stigma from the moral lapse associated with illegitimacy and the economic misfortune that could result from such circumstances, women like Ann Price, whose case was cited at the outset of this chapter, resorted to infanticide. In this way, in the minds of contemporaries at least, illegitimacy and new-born child murder were inextricably linked. Moreover, it was upon a particular subset of unwed mothers that the focus of concern seemed to fall.