Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Accidental Infant Death?

The 1880s saw growing concern at the high and rising number of deaths of children under one year old from suffocation in bed, routinely dismissed as accidental at Coroner's inquest hearings. Nationally 134 per thousand live births in 1881 rose to 174 in 1890.
In Bethnal Green in 1887, it was reported the 5 out of 6 infant deaths investigated were found to be suffocation cases in one room home in which entire family had to sleep in one bed. These deaths were said to be the result of a sleeping parent, or much older child, rolling on top of the smallest and accidentally killing them. Press reports noted that such  incidents were more common on Friday nights and Saturday mornings and Saturday nights and Sunday mornings and that this suggested that heavy drinking was a factor in the fatality.
Was there a darker explanation? How to be rid of an unwanted infant knowing that a Coroner's jury would be highly unlikely to pass any other verdict than accidental death?
It's likely a coincidence that this is following the August 1883 eruption of Krakatoa which sent a veil of dust into the stratosphere. Although, according to Wikipedia, average Northern Hemisphere summer temperatures fell by as much as 1.2 °C (2.2 °F) records for England don't show especially cold winters.

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