First Advisor

Ann Weikel

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Obstetrics -- England -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (249 p.)


Until the sixteenth century, childbirth in England was the exclusive domain of women and was orchestrated by the female midwife. By the end of the seventeenth century, university-educated and church-approved male physicians were systematically beginning to usurp the midwife's role in the lying-in room and to gradually assume authority and power over the process of childbirth. Ultimately doctordominated childbirth threatened, and in some places accomplished, the displacement of the midwife. No one factor was responsible for the shift in delivery room personnel nor was the transition from female midwives to male obstetricians a "natural" one. This thesis looks at three factors which contributed to the success of the transition: first, midwifery practices and the criticism of them by male medical practitioners; second, the association of midwifery and witchcraft; and third, the failure of attempts, particularly in the seventeenth century, to educate and regulate midwives at a time when the male medical profession was doing just that.


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