By Peter Conn (auth.)
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Additional info for Adoption: A Brief Social and Cultural History
Terrified by a prophecy that his son would murder him, Laius contrived to have the infant Oedipus killed. After the baby’s ankles were cruelly bound together to prevent him from crawling, he was turned over to a servant to be exposed and left to die from starvation or killed by predators. Infanticide was a common practice in the ancient world, though usually for reasons less exotic than Laius’s. However, as almost every version of the story continues, Oedipus was spared death by a nameless servant who pitied him and passed him along to a shepherd.
72 Adoption in such cases was not merely discouraged but forbidden. In Utopia (1516), Thomas More described an imaginary world of adoption, specifically to provide greater freedom for (male) children who wanted to pursue a trade other than their fathers: As a rule, the son is trained to his father’s craft, for which most feel a natural inclination. 73 In the non-fictional world, however, adoption was forbidden. What was true for ordinary Englishmen was also true for the king, as this exchange in Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI suggests.
The person adopted had to be at least fifteen years younger than the prospective parent, and had to have received care for at least six years. France legislated more spacious adoption procedures only in 1923, after the First World War and the lethal influenza epidemic that followed, in response to horrific family disruptions that produced a generation of orphans. The British Parliament passed an adoption statute in 1926, also in the wake of the war and the influenza epidemic that had carried off tens of thousands of parents, many of them young.
Adoption: A Brief Social and Cultural History by Peter Conn (auth.)