Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History

First Advisor

Jeffrey R. Watt

Second Advisor

Marc Lerner

Third Advisor

Isaac Stephens

Relational Format



In this dissertation I contend the female midwives and childbearing women did not passively accept the alteration of the experience of birth and the ideology surrounding it in eighteenth-century Britain. While the imposition of the man-midwife and the reframing of birth as a disease to be cured in some ways forced childbearing to shift to a medicalized event, many practices persisted from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, illustrating a vein of consistency in a seemingly tumultuous period. Furthermore, the changes that did take root were not solely the purview of the male medical community, but were influenced by women who found their own ways to operate within and shape the male-dominated sphere of medicalized birth. By refocusing the center of a British study on Scotland we are able to interrogate this shift in midwifery at its core, in the medical epicenter of Edinburgh. This change in geographic focus also expands our understanding across space, but also time as we explore links between the eighteenth-century shift from ritual to disease and the impact of that shift on modern birth practices in Britain and America.



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