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A Global History of Child Death

Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes

Amy J. Catalano

Drawing from primary research studies in archaeology, historical analysis, literature, and art this interdisciplinary look at the history of child funerary practices and other vehicles of parental mourning is the only book of its kind. The purpose of this work is to investigate the ways in which funerary behaviors and grieving differ between cultures and across time; from prehistory to modern history. Philippe Aries, the French childhood historian, argued that children were rarely mourned upon their deaths as child death was a frequent and expected event, especially in the Middle Ages. This book draws upon archaeological reports, secondary data analysis, and analysis of literature, photography and artwork to refute, and in some cases support, Aries’s claim. Organized in two parts, Part One begins with a chapter on the causes of childhood mortality and the steps taken to prevent it, followed by chapters on prehistory, ancient civilizations, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the early modern and late modern eras. The chapters in Part Two discuss indicators of parental concern at a child’s death: naming practices, replacement strategy, baptism, consolation literature, and artwork. Students who focus on the psychological aspects of death, funeral practices, and childhood histories will find this book a useful and comprehensive tool for examining how children have been mourned since prehistory.
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5 Ambivalence, Christianity, Slavery, and the Devil: America and England in the 17th to 20th Centuries

Divine Providence



Ambivalence, Christianity, Slavery, and the Devil

America and England in the 17th to 20th Centuries

After the first Boston small pox epidemic in 1677 when thousands of children died, parents were cautioned to restrain affection to their children so as not to become too attached to them. Therefore, fear of childhood death facilitated the aloof nature of parent-child relationships at this time. In the early 1800s children began to be thought of as innocents, changing not only childhood experiences, but the way children were treated at death.1

The 1800s also marked a turn in mothers’ behavior in colonial America, which included bonding with their children. Just fifty years prior, a culture of ambivalence appeared to limit parental concern for American children. In fact, some historians regard parental responses to child death as evidence of self-control rather than ambivalence. Religious belief played a large part in demonstrating steadfastness, as it was often believed that the life of the child was the responsibility of God. While records, such as diaries, from this time note that parents appeared to accept child death as an expected milestone of life, other accounts demonstrate that parents despaired at the illnesses or deaths of their children. ← 63 | 64 →

The Puritan minister and scholar, Cotton Mather, was once heard to explain that his daughter being badly burned in a fire was a punishment for his own sin. Expanding on this example, it would seem that...

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