The Infancy Problem: Early Life Cycle and Salvation in Reformation England


Monday 11 March 2019, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Anna French (University of Liverpool)

CREMS Cabinet of Curiosities Seminar

This paper will consider the overlapping and inter-connected parts of the life-cycle, the states of pregnancy, childbirth and early infancy, and how they were perceived in Reformation England. The paper will explore these parts of the life-cycle to ask certain pertinent questions, such as: how did early modern society perceive the relationship between pregnancy and infancy (in short: in a different way to how we might expect)? When did an infant become a person, when were they perceived to be an ‘individual’, and what can these beliefs tell us about the perceptions of the very young? Furthermore, what can these ideas reveal about wider sets of belief, most especially those relating to theories surrounding salvation and soteriology? Indeed, it is well known that early moderns, both before and after the Reformation, believed that part of a woman’s soteriological journey should generally include the connected journeys of pregnancy and childbirth – through which women were perceived to be punished for, and in some senses redeemed from, the sins of humankind: but what about perceptions of infants, and infant salvation? Infants, with their small bodies and often fleeting lives, were viewed with a various amount of suspicion at this time, and they were widely regarded to be in a state of limbo, at least until their baptism (but in reality, for much longer – especially after the Reformation).

Anna French

Location: Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building

Admission: All Postgraduates Welcome!