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What do we know about illegitimate children in urban settlements between the Sava and Drava rivers during the Middle Ages

Croatian Historical Institute - Department of History of Slavonia, Srijem and Baranja
Publication Date
  • Srednji Vijek
  • Srednjovjekovna Slavonija
  • Nezakonita Djeca
  • Ilok
  • Tripartit
  • Ugarsko-Hrvatsko Kraljevstvo
  • Middle Ages
  • Medieval Slavonia
  • Illegitimate Children
  • Ilok
  • Tripartitum
  • The Kingdom Of Hungary-Croatia
  • Law


This paper attempts to give some first information about the position of children born out of wedlock in the settlements in the area between the Sava and Drava rivers in the Middle Ages. The paper is based upon an analysis of legal provisions, and judicial and property documents drawn up in the cities in the area. The position of illegitimate children according to Tripartitum is examined. The restrictions brought on by such a birth (e.g. concerning inheritance) and the care for illegitimate children are described. Attention is devoted to infanticide and to its punishment. In spite of the fact that the data about children born out of wedlock are fairly brief, even from them something can be gleaned. It is clear that the life of illegitimate children in this area was not very easy. They were subjected to various restrictions, and were also the victims of infanticide and terminations. Nevertheless, the city authorities did attempt to protect their lives, and in the sources we can find records that testify to parental concern about them. Although we cannot determine how many illegitimate children there were, they are mentioned relatively rarely. It would seem that they represented a rather low percentage of the general population, which is also suggested by there being no trace in the sources of the existence of any foundling hospitals or similar institutions. The small number of children born out of wedlock could be the result of the strict regulations against extra-marital relations, or of the fact that most of the inhabitants of the settlements were actually married.

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