Originally published in 1984 Reproductive Ritual examines fertility and re-production in pre-industrial England. The book discusses both through anthropological research and reviews of contemporary literature that conscious family limitation was practised before the nineteenth century. The volume describes a surprising number of rules, regulations, taboos, injunctions, charms and herbal remedies used to affect pregnancy, and shows the extent to which individual women and men were concerned with controlling the size of their families. The fertility levels in England – as in Western Europe as a whole – were a very long way from the biological maximum in these centuries, and the book discusses the various reasons why this was so. The book reviews traditional ideas concerning the relationship between procreation and pleasure, drawn from a range of contemporary sources and discusses ways in which earlier generations sought both to promote and limit fertility. The book also examines abortion and shows how much evidence there is for its actual practice during the period and of traditional views towards it. This book provides a detailed understanding of historical attitudes towards conception family planning in pre-industrial England.
Introduction: History and Cultural Anthropology
1 The Pleasures of Procreation: Traditional and Biomedical Theories of Conception
2. ‘To Remedy Barrenness and to Promote the Faculty of Generation’: Promoting Fertility, 1500-1800
3. ‘Excellent Recipes to Keep from Bearing Children’: Restricting Fertility, 1500-1800
4. ‘All Manner of Art, to the Help of Drugs and Physicians’: Abortion as Birth Control
5. ‘Converting this Measure of Security into a Crime’: The Early Nineteenth-Century Abortion Laws