How 18th and 19th century London supported its unmarried mothers and illegitimate children – essentially establishing an earlier version of today’s Child Support Agency – is the subject of newly-published research by a Cambridge historian.

Dr Samantha Williams’ Unmarried Motherhood in the Metropolis: 1700-1850 reveals, using London’s few surviving ‘bastardy books’, how the parishes of Lambeth, Southwark and Chelsea chased the fathers of illegitimate babies – and the lengths some errant fathers went to in order to escape not only their moral and financial obligations, but the clutches of parish constables and the feared houses of correction.

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