This book reconstructs the history of conception, pregnancy and childbirth in Europe from antiquity to the 20th century, focusing on its most significant turning points: the emergence of a medical-scientific approach to delivery in Ancient Greece, the impact of Christianity, the establishment of the man-midwife in the 18th century, the medicalisation of childbirth, the emergence of a new representation of the foetus as "unborn citizen", and, finally, the revolution of reproductive technologies.
The book explores a history that, far from being linear, progressive or homogeneous, is characterised by significant continuities as well as transformations. The ways in which a woman gives birth and lives her pregnancy and the postpartum period are the result of a complex series of factors. The book therefore places these events in their wider cultural, social and religious contexts, which influenced the forms taken by rituals and therapeutic practices, religious and civil prescriptions and the regulation of the female body.
The investigation of this complex experience represents a crucial contribution to cultural, social and gender history, as well as an indispensable tool for understanding today’s reality. It will be of great use to undergraduates studying the history of childbirth, the history of medicine, the history of the body, as well as women's and gender history more broadly.
Table of Contents
Introduction; Part I: Cultural representations; 1. Gender dichotomies; Part II: Giving birth and being born from antiquity to the 18th century; 2. Pregnancy; 3. Childbirth; 4. Birth and post-natal period; 5. Social birth; 6. The midwife; Part III: The 18th-century juncture; 7. The institutionalisation of midwives; 8. Man-midwives on the childbirth scene; 9. Lying-in hospitals; 10. The "foetus-as-citizen"; Part IV: The contemporary age; 11. The many revolutions of the 20th century; Bibliography; Index
Nadia Maria Filippini was Lecturer in Women’s History in the Department of Humanities at Ca' Foscari University of Venice. She obtained her PhD in history at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Her research concerns the history of women and the history of mentalities. She has published books, essays and articles, in Italian and other languages, on topics such as the history of Caesarean sections ("extraordinary birth"), childbirth and the body, as well as the history of medicine, and women’s social history. She is a founding member of the Società Italiana delle Storiche (Italian Society of Women Historians).