Sarah FoxJul 7, 2022
Giving Birth in Eighteenth-Century England
University of London Press 2022
Sarah Fox's fascinating new book Giving Birth in Eighteenth-Century England (U London Press, 2022) rewrites all that we know about eighteenth-century childbirth by placing women’s voices at the center of the story. Examining childbirth from the perspective of the birthing woman, this research offers new perspectives on the history of the family, the social history of medicine, community and neighborhood studies, and the study of women’s lives in eighteenth-century England.
From “quickening” through to “confinement,” “giving caudle,” delivery, and “lying-in,” birth was once a complex ritual that involved entire communities. Drawing on an extensive and under-researched body of materials, such as letters, diaries, and recipe books, this book offers critical new perspectives on the history of the family, community, and the lives of women in the coming age of modern medicine. It unpacks the rituals of contemporary childbirth—from foods traditionally eaten before and after birth, birthing clothing, and how a woman’s relationship with her family, husband, friends, and neighbors changed during and after pregnancy. In this important and deeply moving study, we are invited onto a detailed and emotional journey through motherhood in an age of immense socio-cultural and intellectual change.
Hannah Smith is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She can be reached at email@example.com.