By R. Probert
This present day, cohabiting relationships account for many births outdoors marriage. yet what was once the placement in previous centuries? Bringing jointly best historians, demographers and attorneys, this interdisciplinary assortment attracts on quite a lot of resources to envision the altering context of non-marital child-bearing in England and Wales because 1600.
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Additional resources for Cohabitation and Non-Marital Births in England and Wales, 1600–2012
The activities of Christopher Fawcett, noticed earlier, offer vivid examples of these practices. In other cases they took great pains to establish paternity. In London as elsewhere in England, midwives commonly withheld assistance from unmarried women in labour until they had named the father, under threat of suffering all the pains of hell if they had spoken falsely. Bonds were routinely taken from the putative fathers of bastards, the masters or relatives of illicitly pregnant women, and indeed from anyone else in any way involved, to ensure that the parish was ‘saved harmless’.
Women who failed to get satisfaction sometimes threatened to lay the child at the man’s door or stepped up the pressure in other ways. To take an example, it was in 1612 that John Walker, one of Sir Lionel Cranfield’s writing clerks, became involved with a domestic servant in the same household called Dionise Halfehead. She said he was a suitor and promised her marriage. He said she enticed him to have sex when he was ‘somewhat to merry by keepinge companie w[i]th freind[es]’. He was dubious when she claimed to be pregnant, enquiring of a married woman of his acquaintance ‘if it were possible for a woman w[i]thin a monethe after she had lyne w[i]th a man to knowe that she was conceyved w[i]th childe’.
30 But this degree of contraceptive knowledge may have been unusual. Whether precautions were taken or not, what could be done if the woman fell pregnant? There is evidence from all over England that knowledge of abortifacients, particularly infusions of the herb savin, was widespread, and presumably the same was true of London; indeed the presence there of numerous apothecaries’ shops may have made it easier to obtain the required substances. Whether they were extensively used is another matter.
Cohabitation and Non-Marital Births in England and Wales, 1600–2012 by R. Probert