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Grant number: FT-56547-09

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Ginger S. Frost
Samford University (Birmingham, AL 35229-0001)

"Strangers in the Blood": Illegitimacy in England, 1860-1939

Historians of illegitimacy have usually focused on infanticide trials, the New Poor Law of 1834, and child rescue work. This project will instead center on the legal and social consequences of growing up illegitimate in England and Wales between 1860 and 1939. An illegitimate child was literally parentless at law, and the first part of the book shows the difficulty of adjudicating for "fatherless" children in a patriarchal law system. The second part explores how families coped with illegitimacy, primarily by approximating the "regular" family, in blended and fictive forms. The continued legal and social discrimination led Parliament to pass the Legitimacy Act of 1926, a long overdue and highly limited act. Its passage and aftermath demonstrated the continued power of conservative forces in Britain until after World War II. Moreover, its application to the empire complicated meanings of citizenship, ethnicity, and nationality in an age of world upheaval and imperial decline.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
British History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2009 – 8/31/2009