Midwives in History and Society, by Jean Towler and Joan Bramall

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Midwives in History and Society, by Jean Towler and Joan Bramall
Published by Croom Helm in 1986, 316 pages. Paperback (S8295NWSO)

From the rear side cover: The book starts with a brief outline of the ages before there is any recorded mention of  the midwife in Britain, and shows how her evolution has been influenced by cultural waves which started in the Near East and Egypt in pre-classical times and slowly spread Northwards and Eastwards over the whole of Europe. Through different ages the midwife and her role have been closely bound up with the social and religious life of the time. Her status has fluctuated according to the status afforded to women, and the value placed on life in different cultures at different times in history. 

In Greece, during the Classical era, midwives were mostly educated women and enjoyed fairly high social standing. After that time her status fell and remained low for hundreds of years. In Medieval Europe, because of her 'professional' activities, she was vulnerable to accusa­tions of involvement with witchcraft and magic. As the midwife was typical of the society in which she lived she was the product of feminine non-literacy until the late 19th century. The contribution to the art of mid­wifery of the few outstanding exceptions to this rule is documented. 

By the late 19th century the growing involvement of male doctors in childbirth provoked a struggle for statutory recognition of the midwife, finally achieved in the first Midwives Act in 1902. The evolution of the educated qualified midwife of the 20th century is recorded, leading up to the current debates on high technology birth vis-a-vis natural birth and home deliveries. 

The authors have researched a large number of unreported archives and the book comes at an important time for the profession of midwifery with the recent re-organisation of the administration of nursing and midwifery. 

The condition of the book is generally good. The cover has several minor scuffs and blemishes, and some light wear along the edges and corners, but the spine is intact and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound. The book has very slight spine roll along the left hand edge.