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The Kindness of Strangers [Hardcover]

John Boswell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books; 1st Edition edition (Jan 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394570057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394570051
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,428,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The fate of children 9 Mar 2006
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
This book of Boswell's is a fascinating history of an previously unknown and essentially overlooked piece of history -- the situation for children, and what happened to them should they become orphaned or abandoned. Boswell's particular period and geographic centre is in Europe of Late Antiquity to the Renaissance.
Beginning by looking at the ideal of family structure and responsibilities in the Roman Empire (the dominant model throughout the western world), Boswell proceeds through time periods to the Renaissance, examining literary and legal documents for narrative stories of children and caretakers, and for the general policy of church and state organisations toward care or neglect of such. One such narrative as example will serve to illustrate:
'...in Fresne (The Ash Tree) a married woman has maliciously spread the tale that the birth of twins means that the mother has slept with two men, and when she herself then bears twins, she must face an opprobrium of her own creation. She contemplates killing one, but--significantly--her companions dissuade her from this, arguing that it would be a sin. Abandonment, however, was not...'
The woman gives a child to her maid who then leaves it in a church -- while the story turns out badly, it is not due to the abandonment, which was considered in this High Middle Ages tale quite natural and proper.
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