Gabrielle Robilliard

Tending Mothers and the Fruits of the Womb

The Work of the Midwife in the Early Modern German City

Medizin, Gesellschaft und Geschichte – Beihefte
Band 64

309 p., 10 b/w ill, 4 b/w tables. soft cover

€ 54,00

ISBN 978-3-515-11668-8


The early modern period saw a fundamental shift in the history of childbirth from midwifery as a traditional, largely female occupation to modern obstetrics. The seeds of this transformation were sown in the cities, where municipal governments and their medical officials began reworking the often centuries-old systems of municipal midwifery. In Leipzig they overhauled midwife education and in the 1730s appointed a municipal man-midwife.

But why all the commotion about midwifery? How 'novel' were these developments really? And how did all these changes affect the everyday work of the city’s midwives? Drawing on a vast array of administrative sources, Gabrielle Robilliard explores the world of Leipzig’s midwives and early man-midwives from 1650 to 1810. Employing a prosopographical approach, she illuminates in minute detail the occupational culture and structure of both official and unofficial midwifery within the city—including social and economic milieus, client networking practices, and inter- and intraprofessional rivalries—and examines the nature of the encounter between traditional practice and new ways of organising urban midwifery provision.

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Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Isis 110, 2019/1