Encyclopedia Entries A–Z
Historian John Boswell describes how the circumstances of abandonment in myth and literature were based on the realities of existence throughout most of human history. Until the nineteenth century, children were regularly abandoned as a method of family limitation. In some ages as many as a third of the children born were abandoned, sometimes to die, but often they were left in the not unrealistic hope that they would be taken in, perhaps adopted, by other families. Before the medieval period, children were also regularly sold into slavery or prostitution, later into servitude. Abandonment of women by husbands and lovers was, and still is, a fact of life. Women less commonly abandon their families.