By Clare Hanson (auth.)
Read Online or Download A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750–2000 PDF
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Extra resources for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750–2000
Finally, there was an implicit fear of the vitality of the rural poor which can be linked with the revolutionary decade of the 1790s and with agrarian protests against the Enclosure Acts. These led to the break-up of six million acres of common land between 1760 and 1830, land on which many rural workers depended for the tending of livestock and the gathering of fuel. Men and women pulled down fences and gates in protest against this threat to their livelihood. Some medical texts might well have reflected and reinforced anxieties about such protest.
F. Montgomery claims that at the autopsy putrid matter was discovered, which did suggest disease. It is impossible to determine whether Southcott was in fact suffering from organic disease (for example, a tumour or fibroid growth) or whether hers was a case of what we would now call hysterical pregnancy. The case became notorious and inspired much satirical comment, not only at the expense of Southcott but also at that of the clergymen and doctors who had supported her case. Thomas Rowlandson's cartoon 'A Medical Inspection: or Miracles Will Never Cease' is particularly instructive.
Preformationism, epigenesis and Frankenstein It has been pOinted out that, despite the development of obstetrics in this period, many of the clinical aspects of pregnancy were little understood. There was little knowledge of the causes of foetal death, of miscarriage or of deformity at birth. However, the understanding of very early life (embryology) was changing rapidly and it was a subject which was fiercely debated. In the seventeenth century the invention of the microscope had enabled close study of the ovum and spermatozoon, and while scientists such as the Dutch naturalist Advice to the Fair Sex 47 Jan Swammerdam had claimed to see complete miniature organisms in the ovum, others claimed that such organisms could be found in the sperm.