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Parturition and Print in Seventeenth-Century London

Walsh, Katharine (2015) Parturition and Print in Seventeenth-Century London. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In early modern Europe, medical men (sometimes known as “man-midwives”) became increasingly involved in the traditionally female-dominated sphere of childbirth. The timing and extent of this transition varied across regions and differed significantly between urban and rural areas. This dissertation questions whether this process of “masculinization” was evident in London during the key transitional period of the seventeenth century. A significant new genre of print, the instructional midwifery treatise, appeared during this period. To date, scholars have largely neglected the seventeenth century and midwifery treatises as focal points for analysis. This study adopts both of these foci, using the evidence found in midwifery treatises to demonstrate that in London midwives maintained authority in the realm of prescribed practice throughout the seventeenth century. Though men dominated the print industry, the midwifery treatises they published endorsed midwives’ authority. These treatises recognized midwives as a corporate body of practitioners capable of supervising a variety of uncomplicated and complicated births. English authors borrowed material from Continental treatises, many of which limited the midwife’s role in childbirth, but English writers revised these sources so as to highlight and endorse midwives’ authority. Further, male authors sought to increase the experiential authority of their treatises by adopting (fictitious) feminine personas. This study argues that there is little evidence for the “masculinization” of childbirth in seventeenth-century London. Instead, midwifery treatises published during this time recognized and sanctioned midwives’ authority and instructed early modern readers to rely upon midwives in the practice of childbirth.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Walsh, Katharinekmp69@pitt.eduKMP69
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairWaldron, Jenniferjwaldron@pitt.eduJWALDRON
Committee CoChairVenarde, Brucebvenarde@pitt.eduBVENARDE
Committee MemberDrescher, Seymoursyd@pitt.eduSYD
Committee MemberRawski, Evelynesrx@pitt.eduESRX
Date: 14 January 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 November 2014
Approval Date: 14 January 2015
Submission Date: 4 October 2014
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 225
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: childbirth, early modern, England, midwives, gender
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2015 16:04
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 06:15


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