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‘Left to the mercy of the world’
Author: Alysa Levene

This book examines the way in which abandonment to the London Foundling Hospital developed, and how it was used as a strategy by parents and parish officials. It also explores how it was mediated into health and survival outcomes for the infants involved. In considering pathways to health, ill-health and death for foundlings, the book engages with developments in childcare, ideas on childhood, motherhood and medicine, and a multitude of debates on charity, welfare, entitlement and patronage. The first half of the book is concerned primarily with the characteristics of the infants at abandonment, and how this affected their survival prospects. It gives significant insights into how abandonment worked as a poverty alleviation strategy in England, the condition of poor infants at birth and what their risk factors in terms of survivorship were. The second half of the book examines the critical nursing period for all foundlings placed with external nurses between 1741 and 1764. Since an infant's risk of death declines over time, this early experience captured much of their most vulnerable time of life. The hospital's records on nursing are enormously rich and detailed, and one of the benefits of this study is that it enables us to compare the foundlings' experiences of nursing, childcare and health with those of non-foundlings.

Brian Pullan

159 9 Abandonment, reception and infant mortality Foundling hospitals and their attempts at rescuing illegitimate children can be said to have rested on three axioms. The first was that bastards, though subject to prejudice and social disapproval, had a right to life, both temporal and eternal, and that their murder was a heinous crime. The second was that, although the honour of a single mother and her family could not justify murder or exposure, it did justify the separation of base-born children from their blood parents, even from those who had the means to

in Tolerance, Regulation and Rescue
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The estimation of mortality
Alysa Levene

3 Risks of death: the estimation of mortality Va mon enfant, prend ta fortune . . . Note left with child 4338, Margaret Hall Admitted 1 May 1757 Died 2 June 1763 The previous chapter has shown that a large proportion of foundlings died while under the care of the hospital, and that some of them probably entered in a compromised state of health. The quantification of mortality is one of the main aims of this study, for three reasons. The first is to further our understanding of the Foundling Hospital’s regime, and of how institutional care, not just at this

in Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital 1741–1800
Alysa Levene

8 Foundlings and the local demographic context this to Remember my Garle for Ever . . . Note left with child 3734, Constance Dyer Abandoned 12 March 1757 Died 6 April 1765 This chapter takes up some of the issues discussed in the previous one, by tying the health and mortality experiences of the foundlings to the local context of their nursing parishes. The partial family reconstitutions for the four case-study parishes introduced in Chapter 6 will be outlined in greater detail, and exploited for what they can tell us about the risks to life for infants

in Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital 1741–1800
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Alysa Levene

4 Survival prospects [Her] name is Livelong . . . Note left with child 4370, Elizabeth Dixon Admitted 4 May 1757 Apprenticed 5 November 1767 The previous chapter illustrated that mortality at the London Foundling Hospital was high, but not constant over time. In this chapter, we investigate the causes of this mortality, and how it was mediated. Was there something distinctive about being an abandoned child which predisposed foundlings to high mortality, or was it a combination of more general factors which was responsible? Was it the characteristics which they

in Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital 1741–1800
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Alysa Levene

able to call upon the 92 Childcare, health and mortality contacts of its governors and supporters in rural areas around the country to identify suitable women and people to oversee them. From its earliest admissions, the hospital had built up a system of inspectors to supervise the nurses, and ensure that they did not defraud the hospital by failing to declare a foundling’s death. The post was an unpaid one which required a significant time commitment, as well as a certain ability in financial matters. Inspectors, who could be either men or women, were required to

in Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital 1741–1800
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Alysa Levene

wedlock. Fry was sent to the hospital by parish officials in County Durham, which indicates that the institution also played an important part in the development of local poor relief provision. By investigating the mortality rates and survival risks of infants like Fry, it is possible to establish whether he died so young because of inherent weakness, or because of factors associated with his experiences as a baby. This clearly has repercussions for the study of mortality and survival among infants, and especially poor infants, more generally. The mechanics of how the

in Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital 1741–1800
Alysa Levene

/FH/A09/2/1-5. may inflate early mortality rates. A skewed sex ratio may also reflect the fact that infants of one sex were more likely than the other to have died before abandonment could occur. The sex ratio of the foundlings is very close to the normal biological standard at birth of 104:100.3 In February 1744/45 (New Style Calendar), the General Committee had decided that equal numbers of boys and girls should be admitted, but no such regulation was enforced during the General Reception period. The gender ratio observed for the hospital was, therefore, not directed

in Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital 1741–1800
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Alysa Levene

the characteristics of foundlings like Sarah, what happened to them and what their experiences of feeding and health may have been than either their parents or even the hospital governors would have done. Their characteristics and mortality rates and risks have been quantified, and their patterns of feeding and health built up via links to the surrounding communities. The discussion of these issues has also highlighted how much interplay there is between the hospital governors’ concerns and aims and wider themes in the history of the family, medicine, childhood

in Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital 1741–1800
Alysa Levene

nearly so extensive as those carried out by scholars such as Keith Wrightson, David Levine, Pamela Sharpe and Barry Reay.3 Nor does it represent a full family reconstitution as illustrated in the work of the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure and others. However, it is not the aim here to investigate a ‘total history’, or a full demographic analysis of the chosen parishes. The sources are interrogated very specifically for the light they shed on experiences of wet nursing, health, infant and child mortality, and the relationships between

in Childcare, health and mortality at the London Foundling Hospital 1741–1800