Urth Noe e Tat: The Question of Fosterage in High Medieval Wales
By Katharine Anderson
North American Journal of Welsh Studies, Vol.4:1 (Winter 2004)
Introduction: Fosterage has long been considered a key component of medieval childrearing in the Celtic regions. A large body of Irish linguistic, legal and literary evidence has given us a fairly clear picture of the institution of fosterage as it existed in early medieval Ireland. However, for Wales the situation is much less clear. There are only a few scattered references in Welsh literature and, despite a lengthy tract devoted to the upbringing of children, almost no references to fosterage in the medieval Welsh legal texts.
Since many works of scholarship, particularly those exploring the Early Middle Ages, have tended to focus on the linguistic, legal and literary commonalities between Ireland and Wales, it is perhaps not surprising that scholars have used Irish evidence to fill in the blanks for Wales in regards to fosterage. Utilizing evidence from both regions has led many scholars to conclude that the practice of fosterage in medieval Wales was quite similar to the practice in Ireland and that the custom persisted in Wales well into the twelfth century.