Birth: personal stories to population policies

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Birth: personal stories to population policies

L0050178 Plate showing the birth of a baby, using forceps (1 of 4)

Birth involves the act of parturition, the beginning of the human life course and the expansion of the family unit. Throughout history, birth has been monitored and managed by individuals, institutions and the state – directly and indirectly – due to its significance for families and society. On 18 and 19 September 2014, the history of birth, from personal stories to population policies, was examined in a conference at the University of Leeds. These pages are a record of the papers given over the two days.

The conference brought together those interested in the history of birth, fertility, sexuality, demography and family life, from the medieval period to the present day, and in cultures across the world. The conference aimed to situate birth in the contexts of family and society, evaluate the attitudes of individuals, groups and governments to birth, explore the impact of birth, and assess changes and continuities in the experience of birth.

The conference focused on five key themes:

The conference programme included a public lecture in association with the History & Policy Parenting Forum, from Professor Simon Szreter, University of Cambridge; a keynote paper from Professor Kate Fisher, University of Exeter; a roundtable on the politics of procreation; and a handling session with objects from the Thackray Medical Museum. For more information, see our full programme.

You can now listen to a podcast of the public lecture from Simon Szreter, entitled ‘Births and the collective provision of welfare – the long view, c.1550-2014’:

The conference was hosted by the Health, Medicine and Society research group, based within the School of History at the University of Leeds. Please contact the organisers Alex Bamji and Laura King with any enquiries.

This conference was kindly supported by the School of History, University of LeedsLeeds Centre for Medical Humanities, and CCI Exchange.

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