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Death and a Maiden: Infanticide and the Tragical History of Grethe Schmidt


Death and a Maiden: Infanticide and the Tragical History of Grethe Schmidt Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

On the feast of St. Michael, September 1659, a thirteen-year-old peasant girl named Grethe Schmidt left her family’s rural home to work as a maid in the nearby city of Braunschweig. Just two years later, Schmidt found herself imprisoned and accused of murdering her bastard child, even though the fact of her pregnancy was inconclusive and no infant’s body was ever found.
William David Myers infuses the story of Grethe’s arrest, torture, trial, and sentence for suspected infanticide, with a detailed account of the workings of the criminal system in continental Europe, including the nature of interrogations, the process of torture, and the creation of a “criminal” identity over time. After Myer’s research through thousands of pages of testimony and rancorous legal exchange, it is still not clear that any murder happened.
Death and a Maiden serves up a captivating slice of European history as well as a highly informative look at the condition of poor women and the legal system in mid-seventeenth century Germany.


The compelling, true story of a young German girl accused of murder

About the Author

William David Myers is associate professor of history at Fordham University. He is the author of Poor, Sinning Folk: Confession and the Making of Consciences in Counter-Reformation Germany.

Table of Contents



Part I: Grethe
1. In Brunswick, Near Hannover City    
2. Anatomy of a Crime    
3. A Girl, Purportedly a Maiden    
4. Family Values    
5. Common Repute: Women and Neighbors    
6. Corpus Delicti    
7. Knowledgeable Women: The Midwives’ Tale    
8. Legal Maneuvering and the Question of Torture     
9. Terror, Torture, and Grethe Schmidt    
Part II: Justus
10. Case for a Defense    
11. Defending Grethe    
12. The Thick Wilderness of Lies    
13. The Way to a Confession    
14. “Even to the Devil Himself”    
Conclusion: Many Vigorous Enemies    




Product Details

Myers, William David
Northern Illinois University Press
Law : General
Edition Description:
1st Edition
Publication Date:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Crime » True Crime
History and Social Science » Europe » Germany » Early Germany
History and Social Science » Law » General
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » Germany » General

Death and a Maiden: Infanticide and the Tragical History of Grethe Schmidt New Hardcover
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Product details 283 pages Northern Illinois University Press - English 9780875804378 Reviews:
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The compelling, true story of a young German girl accused of murder

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