Midwifery Knowledge in Late 18th and Early 19th Century Germany

Submitted by Marystella Ramirez Guerra, PhD candidate, Germany.

Key words: popular medicine, childbirth, German midwives

During the late Eighteength and early Nineteenth Century there was an increase in publications that claimed to provide medical information and advice to the general reading public in most German speaking lands (here understood as all territories in current Germany and Austria, though for the project itself, the focus will be much more geographically reduced). These were the result of a state-guided movement to improve the population’s overall health as an asset for the strengthening of state.

Alongside these official publications there were other writings — which for the purposes of this project I will identify as private — that came from individual physicians or evangelical pastors. Even after the official channels of medical advice production closed down the publications by private authors, demand for them continued, revealing the effectiveness of the state campaign to promote an early form of the notion of disease prevention. Within each of these publications, be they private or public, there was a section dedicated to childbirth and pregnancy under the title of ‘Hebammenwesen’ that roughly translates as ‘Midwifery Knowledge’.

For my doctoral thesis I will be focusing on this section of public health knowledge; what type of knowledge was being created; who were the authors of these knowledge claims; and what were the ideas beind them. Due to the different experiences had and legal status achieved by German Midwives, the discourses do not follow the more common path of this discipline in English-speaking countries.

 

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