Friday, February 20, 2009

Question from Katie - Sources for info on pregnancy and childbirth

I am a midwife working in England, I am just completing my Masters in midwifery. I start my lecturing qualification in September.In my personal life I am a tudor history enthusiast, particularlay pregnancy & childbirth at this time (royal childbirth a particular gem for me). My hope is to in some way combine my passions; midwifery and history. I would like pointing in the right direction regarding literature that may be of use to me?


Anonymous said...

Firstly, congratulations on obtaining your Masters!

The subject of pregnancy and childbirth in the early modern period is a fascinating one. Admittedly I’ve only come across this subject briefly in a class I took on gender and sexuality in early modern England, although I managed to find some interesting works on this area.

There is an interesting chapter on the female life cycle in Merry E. Wiesner’s “Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe”. Part of the work can be read online:,M1

Another one to look out for is Hilary Marland (ed.), “The Art of Midwifery: Early Modern Midwives in Europe and North America”. Again, a limited preview is available online:,M1

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Katie, on receiving your Masters in Midwifery.

One excellent starting point for studying Tudor pregnancy and birthing practices is David Cressy's Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor-Stuart England (1999). You will find the first part on pregnancy and birth very useful. And by looking at Cressy's footnotes and bibliography, you will find still more resources.

You might also enjoy his Travesties and Transgressions (2000), which has some fascinating tales of men dressing as midwives so that they could sneak into the birthing chamber!

Unfortunately, pregnancy and childbirth in the Tudor period is an area in which only limited research and writing has been done. The Royal Historical Society Bibliography Online reveals only a dozen books and articles under the keyword "pregnancy" that have been published on the Tudor period in the past 20 years! And just 17 under the keyword "childbirth" when the search is limited to the Tudor period (though there are dozens for the Stuart and Hanoverian periods).

Since you are in the UK, you might contact the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine at the University College of London. Perhaps they can put you in touch with someone who is now actively researching the subject of pregnancy, childbirth, and midwifery in the Tudor period. As a trained modern midwife, you may even be able to lend your own expertise to the research process. At the very least, the Wellcome Library has an outstanding collection of documents that you might find useful.

Anonymous said...

You might consider David Cressy's "Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England". It has great sections on birth and childbed attendants. You can find the book on Amazon. Good luck to you!

Unknown said...

Thankyou I shall obtain and read all these resources. How wonderful to receive this feedback.. this website is a fantastic resource in itself.

Anonymous said...

Katie, I share the same passion with you for the Tudorian period. I am also trying to write an essay on childbirth and midwifery around that era and I came across more or less, to the same resources. I hope you have completed your Masters by now.