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Week 18: Reproduction in the Twentieth Century

Lecturer: Angela Davis

If, how and when people reproduce is a key concern for the state, medicine and individual men and women. It is also a topic rife with contradictions – an issue that is both intensely private and of public concern; held to be ‘natural’, but also revolutionized by technological innovations. This week we will consider how reproduction lies on the boundaries between the social and scientific and question why it has come under the sphere of medicine and with what consequences. The essential readings will introduce us to different aspects of the subject, including the development and use of new reproductive technologies; the regulation of fertility, for what reasons and in whose interests; and debates over whether maternity was pathological.


Discussion/Essay Questions:

· Has pregnancy and birth been viewed as ‘natural’?
· Who has sought to limit access to reproductive technologies and why?
· Is fertility a social or medical concern?


Required Readings:

Gayle Davis, 'Test Tubes and Turpitude: Medical Responses to the Infertile Patient in Mid-Twentieth-Century Scotland', in Janet Greenlees and Linda Bryder (eds), Western Maternity and Medicine, 1880-1990 (2013), 113-127. E-book

Alexandra Minna Stern, ‘Sterilized in the Name of Public Health’, American Journal of Public Health 95 (2005) 1128-1138. E-journal

Patricia R. Stokes, ‘Pathology, Danger, and Power: Women’s and Physicians’ Views of Pregnancy and Childbirth in Weimar Germany’, Social History of Medicine 13 (2000) 359-380. E-journal


Further Reading:

Rima Apple, ‘Constructing Mothers: Scientific Motherhood in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’, Social History of Medicine 8 (1995) 161-178. E-journal

L. McCray Beier, ‘Expertise and Control: Childbearing in Three Twentieth-Century Working-Class Lancashire Communities’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 78 (2004), 379-410. E-journal

Cynthia R. Daniels, ‘Between Fathers and Fetuses: The Social Construction of Male Reproduction and the Politics of Fetal Harm’, Signs 22 (1997) 579-616. E-journal

Angela Davis, ‘A Revolution in Maternity Care? Women and the Maternity Services, Oxfordshire c. 1948-1974’, Social History of Medicine 24 (2011) 89-406. E-journal

Angela Davis, Modern Motherhood: Women and Family in England, 1945-2000 (2012). E-book

Gayle Davis, 'Test Tubes and Turpitude: Medical Responses to the Infertile Patient in Mid-Twentieth-Century Scotland', in Janet Greenlees and Linda Bryder (eds), Western Maternity and Medicine, 1880-1990 (2013), 113-127. E-book

Yolanda Eraso, ‘Biotypology, Endocrinology, and Sterilization: The Practice of Eugenics in the Treatment of Argentinian Women during the 1930s’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 81 (2007) 793-822. E-journal

Kate Fisher, ‘“She Was Quite Satisfied with the Arrangements I Made”: Gender and Birth Control in Britain 1920-1950’, Past and Present 169 (2000) 161-193. E-journal

Sarah Hodges, ‘Toward a History of Reproduction in Modern India,’ in Sarah Hodges (ed.), Reproductive Health in India: History, Politics, Controversies (2006).

Susan Martha Kahn, Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel (2000).

Judith Walzer Leavitt, Make Room for Daddy. The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room (2009).

Lara Marks, Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill (2001).

Tiana Norgren, ‘Abortion before Birth Control: The Interest Group Politics Behind Postwar Japanese Reproduction Policy’, Journal of Japanese Studies 24 (1998) 59-94. E-journal

Michelle Stanworth, Reproductive Technologies: Gender, Motherhood and Medicine, (1987).

Lynn Thomas, Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction and the State in Kenya (2003) E-book

Michael O. West, ‘Nationalism, Race, and Gender: The Politics of Family Planning in Zimbabwe, 1957-1990’, Social History of Medicine 7 (1994) 447-471. E-journal