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Kertzer, David I.; Koball, Heather L.; & White, Michael J. (1997). Growing Up as an Abandoned Child in Nineteenth-Century Italy. The History of the Family: An International Quarterly, 2(3), 211-238.


In the debate over “maternal indifference” and, more generally, over the ways in which children were viewed and treated in the European past, the care of abandoned children has attracted a good deal of attention. Huge numbers of newborns were consigned to foundling homes in past centuries, and attempts to keep the children alive depended heavily on placing them with rural wetnurses and foster families. In general, scholars have portrayed these foster families as having little concern for the welfare of their charges. One consequence of this view is the presumed instability of foster home arrangements for foundlings. Using archival sources, this article investigates the relationships between foster families and foundlings by examining the lives of babies abandoned at the foundling home in Bologna, Italy over the course of the nineteenth century. The study provides grounds for questioning the received wisdom on the subject of foundling care in nineteenth-century Italy and beyond.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

The History of the Family: An International Quarterly


Kertzer, David I.
Koball, Heather L.
White, Michael J.