These texts were written in the vernacular for a readership of physicians and surgeons but also of midwives and lay women. So they present important evidence that, contrary to stereotypes, women were the recipients of medical texts written specifically for them. More generally, these texts demonstrate a strong interest in women’s health, indicating that early modern physicians and surgeons had a new interest in the specificity of female anatomy and women's diseases. The texts selected and translated in this volume allow the reader to access an important group of primary sources on issues related to women’s health, including childbirth and caesarean section, sterility, miscarriage, breastfeeding, etc. The selection of texts is well organized and coherent, the translation is accurate and fluent, and the texts are adequately annotated, so the book will be easily used by scholars and students, including undergraduates. It provides evidence of a new concern and attention for women’s health needs, which, most interestingly, often went hand-in-hand with the rejection of misogynist stereotypes and the challenging of conventional views of female subordination and inferiority.
Professor of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University
Why did pregnancy and birth attract so much attention in early modern France? How were they represented in medical treatises published in French rather than in Latin? Valerie Worth-Stylianou translates and discusses works by four key physicians (Rousset, Liebault, Duval and de Serres) and one surgeon (Guillemeau), revealing how these practitioners are distinguished by their particularly caring attitudes. Whether they are arguing the case for or against cesareans to save mothers’ lives, proposing diets for pregnancy and positions for delivery, or explaining the process of conception, the authors of the treatises are united by compassion for ‘women of all stations’. Their spirited defenses challenge prevailing misogynistic assumptions about the nature of women, as medical knowledge and fascinating case histories are combined with both humor and pathos.
VALERIE WORTH-STYLIANOU is Senior Tutor at Trinity College Oxford, and Professor of French at Oxford University. She has published extensively on translations and on women’s healthcare in early modern France.
The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series 23
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