IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 312: Death of the Innocents

Monday 11 July 2005, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Michael Goodich, Department of History, University of Haifa
Paper 312-aFemale Power and Infanticide: Converting Pagans on the Germanic Frontier, c. 750
(Language: English)
Katherine Dittmar, Department of History, University of Georgia, Athens
Index terms: Gender Studies, Hagiography, Pagan Religions, Social History
Paper 312-bThe Value of Medieval Children and the White Ship Disaster
(Language: English)
Sue Kronenfeld, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, Downtown
Index terms: Daily Life, Mentalities, Social History
Paper 312-cThe Conceptions of Youth in English Ritual Murder Accusations
(Language: English)
Kate E. McGrath, Department of History, Emory University, Georgia
Index terms: Hagiography, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Language and Literature - Latin, Mentalities

Abstract Paper a) In the vita of the great missionary abbess St. Leoba (d.779) of Bischofsheim there is a classic case of infanticide. The accused nun Agatha protested her innocence, and the saint used the event for her first display of peity and raw supernatural power for the pagan Germanic villagers. Surprisingly this essential vita has been little studied either by feminist medievalists or scholars interested in the history of children. And infanticide continues to be a cause celebre. This paper will discuss the complex tapestry of the current theories on this crime as intertwined with the reasons given by the vita’s male author. The role of infanticide in children’s history will also be discussed.

Paper b) When the White Ship foundered crossing the Channel to England in 1120, with her perished the children of the cream of the Anglo-Norman nobility, including the only legitimate son of King Henry I. But in comparing the contemporary chronicles with later accounts, did the White Ship’s tragedy seem to consist primarily in the loss of the young nobles themselves, or in the terrible civil conflict that ultimately resulted? What, if anything, does this imply about the value of children to Anglo-Norman society?

Paper c) Scholars examining twelfth and thirteenth-century accounts of ritual murder accusations against the Jews have often assumed that they must be self-naturalizing. They assume that the motif is either so firmly imprinted or so congruent with popular conceptions that all that is required for its manifestation is for it to be articulated. They fail to consider that medieval individuals with different motives and agendas actively construct blood libel accusations. This paper argues that conceptions of youth and childhood are fundamental to their rhetorical strategies. By examining these conceptions, we can better understand their effective use against the Jews.