By Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)
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Extra info for A History of Infanticide in Britain c. 1600 to the Present
As the data shows, there is a substantial gap between indictment levels and conviction rates, especially in relation to the evidence for London and Wales. 127 The reasons for this seeming lack of judicial interest in new-born child murder are multifarious, complex and partly based on supposition. 128 As noted above, the true contribution of new-born 42 A History of Infanticide in Britain child murder to the so-called ‘dark figure’ of criminal statistics can never be fully known, but is thought by scholars to be significant, especially in relation to the early modern period.
65 The fractured courtship hypothesis appears convincing in relation to England, based on the evidence to date. What it also reflects, however, is the importance of the local and regional context in understanding why illegitimacy increased in a given place at a given time. 67 One final explanation for increases in the illegitimacy rate during the early modern period relates to the records of the births themselves. Certainly, it is hard to discern the accuracy of birth registration in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
88 Instances of admitted illegitimacy brought before the Kirk Session had particularly onerous consequences for the woman concerned. The penalty was typically an order to make repeated ‘shaming’ appearances before the congregation dressed in sackcloth. These episodes were meant to enable the woman to repent her sins before the parish community. 90 This evidence seems somewhat at odds with the omnipotent doctrine and disciplinary provision that the Scottish Church enjoyed, and suggests that the reach and significance of the Church was not as extensive as we might have imagined.