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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kindness of Strangers, 16 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance (Hardcover)
This book was referenced in another book I read recently, and sounded very intriguing. To be honest, I'd never given much thought to the topic of the abandonment of children in itself. But it's very clear this author has given much thought and consideration to many aspects of the subject. The book covers the period from late antiquity to the Renaissance, and covers the area of Western Europe, so the topic is not covered in the Eastern Empire area, which in itself would fill another book I'm sure.

To start with, how do you define `abandonment'? Was the abandonment of children commonplace or rare? If it's mentioned in literature or legal sources, does that mean it happened and was thus recorded in these sources, or is it a case of `intuitive likehihood' that it may have happened? How can we even begin to find sources from these times that might record such a cultural event? If a parent knowingly sells or gives a child away, is that abandonment? How is abandonment carried out - is it the `exposure' of a child to the elements and fate, or is it the giving of a child to a childless couple to raise, or the selling of a child into slavery or prostitution, or in later Christian times the giving of a child to God as an oblate? If a child is `abandoned' (however that may be defined) does the child retain any rights to any patrimony? Or can they leave the fate they have been abandoned to? Can a parent seek to regain a child that has been abandoned, and if so at what cost and remedy? Is there a social, cultural or legal penalty for abandoning a child? Is there a differentation between abandonment and infanticide, in that the abandonment of a child was done in the hope that the child would be picked up and raised by somebody else? How do you even define a `child'? In law and in different areas this definition varied sharply. These questions, and many more are covered by the author and the result is an astonishing book that opens up so many avenues of thought for the reader, and so many aspects of this seemingly straightforward topic that you would never really have considered.

Given that abandoned children would not often have been recorded in for instance census or taxation records, and given that there must have been many children who, if abandoned disappeared without trace by death or misadventure, what we do know about children and their potential for being abandoned and the various fates (good and bad) that they may have then found makes for astonishing reading. The author concludes that children "were abandoned throughout Europe from Hellenistic antiquity to the end of the Middle Ages in great numbers, by parents of every social standing, in a great variety of circumstances." Sadly, the rise of foundling homes from the thirteenth century may well have resulted in the deaths of more children than in previous times. The reasons why children may have been abandoned and the results of such situations make for a startling read, and one well worth pursuing.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Jan 2014 20:16:07 GMT
Is this a 3D review or am i seing double.

I vote yes anyway got get you into top 100 reviewer's.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jan 2014 20:28:46 GMT
Keen Reader says:
There seem to be a few editions on sale, so thought I'd pop the review on a couple for those browsing.
Thanks timelord007! Imagine that!
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