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The implications of illegitimacy in late-nineteenth-century Iceland: the relationship between infant mortality and the household position of mothers giving birth to illegitimate children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 March 2001

ÓLÖF GARĐARSDÓTTIR
Affiliation:
Department of Historical Demography, University of Umeå, Sweden

Abstract

In his article ‘Premarital sexual permissiveness and illegitimacy in the Nordic Countries’, Richard F. Tomasson discusses high illegitimacy rates in preindustrial Iceland. He points out that during the nineteenth century children born out of wedlock were proportionally more numerous in Iceland than in other European countries. In Tomasson's view high illegitimacy rates in Iceland were due to liberal attitudes towards premarital sex – attitudes that were deeply rooted in traditional Nordic society. In his words, ‘The Ancient Scandinavians accorded women higher status, and along with this went liberal attitudes toward premarital sex relations, illegitimacy, and divorce. Such attitudes often appear to be a concomitant of a high degree of equality between the sexes.’

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2000 Cambridge University Press

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