Grieving for Children in Italy in the Long 19th Century

Comune di Lucca, Italy |
© Privat

During the long 19th century, the transformation of the demographic conditions and changes in cultural perceptions took place through slow and interrelated processes that affected the lives of predominantly upper-class children in urban Italian society. Adults increasingly invested in their offspring emotionally, socially and economically, and certainly this  bore a deep impact on the way in which families experienced and coped with the death of a son or daughter. The study of 19th and 20th century funerary culture related to the loss of a child in Italy is still almost a historiographical terra incognita, especially from the perspective of the history of emotions.  The study of graves in Italian urban cemeteries and a close scrutiny of the archival and printed primary sources offer the opportunity to explore the emotional dimensions of this tragic event, starting from the point when a child fell ill to the grieving process of the family, friends and relatives. Which emotions were depicted and in which manner?  Was the representation of these feelings mainly a way of coping with death, or did it also serve other purposes? Which impact do esthetic and religious elements bear on the emotional repertoire associated with the death of the young ones?