|Abstract:||Using information from the ricordanze, the diary-like account books of the Florentine merchant and ruling elite, letters, humanists' and moralists' tracts on the family, and contemporary literature, this dissertation examines Florentine attitudes and behavior regarding birth and infancy from 1300-1600. Most Florentines of the merchant and ruling elite recognized childhood as a distinct stage in human development. Moreover, they recognized that newborns and infants had special needs, which they provided for willingly within the structures of their daily lives. Although a serious and deadly business, the miracle of birth provided most Florentines with joy and a sense of fulfillment. The many rituals surrounding birth, baptism, naming, and godparenthood, reflect these feelings. Most Florentines of the merchant and ruling elite wanted children, and this desire coupled with the premodern reality of high infant mortality rates led them to have many children. Because of the high infant mortality rates in the premodern world, parents faced the likely prospect of losing one or more of their children. They did not defend themselves from the mortality of their children by becoming indifferent to them. They accepted the emotional risk attendant with the mortality of their children and grieved for them when necessary. Other structures of their daily life led Florentines to adopt childrearing practices that seem alien to us, such as wetnursing. But seen in its proper context, wetnursing appears more like premodern day care. The parents' underlying motive for this practice, of trying to provide for their children while maintaining their own duties in the world, is quite familiar to us of the modern world. In their attitudes towards their children, most premodern Florentines seem much as we think ourselves to be. This dissertation's conclusions then are at odds with those from the school of family history that wants to see parental attitudes towards children in the premodern world characterized by emotional distance, neglect, and even cruelty.