Dishonoured women and abandoned children in Italy, 1300–1800
Author: Brian Pullan

This book seeks to contribute to Italian social history and to deepen understanding of Catholic charity and social policy in past times. It focuses on two groups of disreputable (or at least tarnished) women and children and on the arrangements made to discipline and care for them, both by public authorities and by voluntary organisations and would-be benefactors. The first group consisted of prostitutes, concubines, single mothers, estranged wives, and girls in moral danger. The second was composed of children, many born outside wedlock, who were abandoned by their blood parents, out of shame or poverty or both. A synoptic survey, the book examines the complications involved in the tolerance and regulation of activities considered bad but impossible to suppress. Could licensed prostitution be used as a lesser evil to counter supposedly greater abuses, such as sodomy, adultery or concubinage, and to protect ‘decent’ women? Could child abandonment be tamed and used against the greater evils of infanticide or abortion, to preserve the honour of women who had borne illegitimate children and to save fragile lives? And what should be done to protect and rescue the victims of sexual exploitation and children separated from their natural mothers?

Abstract only
Brian Pullan

may be termed the policy of regulation and rescue, the second described as the practice of making a choice of evils and tolerating a so-called lesser evil [minus malum] in the hope of averting a much more serious one. Between the early fourteenth and the early sixteenth centuries, many Italian societies decided to acknowledge and try to control, rather than prohibit, certain activities which seemed almost impossible to uproot from a sinful world. These might be both impious and dishonourable in the eyes of strict moralists. But, if skilfully managed, they could, in

in Tolerance, Regulation and Rescue
An introduction
Brian Pullan

for bastard-bearing, and to rescue their children from criminal attempts on their lives.3 Foundling hospitals as a lesser evil Arguably, foundling hospitals, or rather the forms of child abandonment which they encouraged, stood for a lesser evil. Organised abandonment, an abdication of responsibility by natural parents, was justified by the hope of avoiding much worse disasters such as abortion, infanticide, the shaming of families who might resort to ‘honour’ killings, the consignment of innocent souls to Limbo. Like most flirtations with a so-called lesser evil

in Tolerance, Regulation and Rescue
Abstract only
Brian Pullan

book could be described as forms of ‘harm reduction’, remote ancestors of movements which developed in the late twentieth century around the time of the HIV epidemic to mitigate some of the consequences of drug, alcohol and tobacco use, without wasting time and effort on ‘the eradication of intractable human behaviors’.1 The medieval minus malum could perhaps be translated as ‘the smaller harm’, though the term ‘the lesser evil’ is more consonant with the language of the past and with the moral judgements commonly pronounced at the time on dishonoured women and base

in Tolerance, Regulation and Rescue
Brian Pullan

48 3 Prostitutes, courtesans and public morality During the sixteenth century, many French and German cities officially closed their brothels, as though yielding to the demands of Protestant reformers that they form godly societies dominated by civic righteousness.1 No more should public authorities connive at sexual relationships outside marriage, let alone extract revenue from them. Choice of the lesser evil should give way to a new kind of moral absolutism. Some Protestant critics called whorehouses ‘schools that teach more shameful things than they prevent

in Tolerance, Regulation and Rescue
Ashley Lavelle

they had supported and helped to instigate. A marked shift in opinion saw opponents of Charles I lend their support to his son’s ascendancy in 1660, and repression – including imprisonment, censorship, and execution – was meted out to regicides and revolutionaries, including the Levellers, many of whom came to see the King as the lesser evil compared to the army (Hill, 1984). A similar pattern is evident in cycles of revolt and reaction ever since. The wash-up of the French Revolution – in particular the descent into bloodletting and Napoleonic dictatorship – caused

in The politics of betrayal
Nicholas Bamforth

, despite personal misgivings, the truth of the Church’s condemnation of loving same-sex sexual acts. Nonetheless, he notes that the granting of legal recognition would not threaten the institution of heterosexual marriage, and that the dignity of lesbians and gay men can be enhanced by legal recognition – as seems to be the case with Britain’s civil partnership legislation – without undermining the dignity of others. It is thus a lesser evil for the law to recognise committed same-sex relationships than for it to refuse to do so. For lesbians and gay men who are not

in Religion and rights
From the ‘Red Week’ to the Russian revolutions
Carl Levy

mentioned linkages to British liberals, noted in the case of Malatesta, the Italian revolutionary also sought out alliances with radical liberals in Italy in the late 1890s when military dictatorship threatened, even though he refused to be a protest candidate in parliamentary elections.62 But in 1914, while Kropotkin argued the logic of the lesser evil and found comfort in the traditions of British liberalism and French republicanism, Malatesta disagreed. Ruth Kinna has argued that Kropotkin saw the imperialism of the German Empire as the greatest threat to a future

in Anarchism, 1914–18
Abstract only
Jonathan Glover

right. Some want the prohibition on torture to be an absolutely impassible barrier, even at the cost of letting the nuclear attack take place. Others think that if there were really no other means and if it provided a very good chance of averting the attack, torturing might be justified as the lesser evil. (Only might be justified, for several reasons, including the horrors of the long-term consequences of the precedent of using torture as an instrument of policy.) Despite this possible case for torture being permissible in extreme situations, on Abu Ghraib and

in From reason to practice in bioethics
Abstract only
The roots of Malatesta’s anti-militarism
Davide Turcato

other countries to destroy their own militarism first. If everyone was to wait for the others to begin, revolution would be postponed forever.24 In brief, choosing the lesser evil meant setting off on a regressive path, from which there was no way back. Anti-militarism and anti-parliamentarism The type of reasoning that Malatesta used to back his stance on the war and his rejection of the lesser evil argument can also be traced, in very similar forms, in the arguments he raised against parliamentarism. By taking heed of this commonality we can appreciate how

in Anarchism, 1914–18