Beginning in the early thirteenth century, the burial of a child became an event of dramatic consequence. Child death took on a symbolic power, with great concern expressed over the fate of the body. William F. MacLehose follows the evolution of this social anxiety during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, an anxiety focused on images of children's vulnerability and susceptibility to external threats. Employing a wide range of sources, including historical chronicles, medical writings, Marian legends, hagiography, and popular theological texts, MacLehose advances four important discussions of childhood that directly link fragility with other sources of cultural anxiety: medical writers who began to articulate an increasingly paradoxical view of women's bodily fluids--milk and menstrual blood--as simultaneously essential and potentially fatal to the survival of the fetus and the newborn; doctrinal debates on the fate of children who died before baptism; accusations against Jews, who were charged with the ritual murder of Christian children; and the so-called Children's Crusade of 1212, which was justified on the basis that corruption was an inevitable part of a child's growth.
William F. MacLehose works on the connections between medical, natural philosophical, and religious thought in Western Europe during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. His research emphasizes the transformations within medical knowledge as the medieval west rediscovered the Hippocratic-Galenic traditions via the Arabic world. His primary interest lies in the importance of childhood as a source of interest and concern within medieval society as reflected in the fields of embryology, obstetrics, and pediatrics.