This book recounts the journey of English midwives over six centuries and their battle for survival as a discrete profession, caring safely for childbearing women.

With a particular focus on sixteenth and twentieth century midwifery practice, it includes new research which provides evidence of the identity, social status, lives, families and practice of contemporary midwives, and argues that the excellent care given by ecclesiastically licensed midwives in Tudor England was not bettered until the twentieth century. Relying on a wide variety of archived and personally collected material, this history illuminates the lives, words, professional experiences and outcomes of midwives. It explores the place of women in society, the development of midwifery education and regulation, the seventeenth century arrival of the accoucheurs and the continuing drive by obstetricians to medicalise birth.

A fascinating and compelling read, it highlights the politics and challenges that have shaped midwifery practice today and encourages readers to be confident in midwifery-led care and giving women choices in childbirth. It is an important read for all those interested in childbirth.

chapter |6 pages


chapter 1|10 pages

Late medieval and Tudor English midwives

Roles and responsibilities

chapter 2|18 pages

Tudor midwives

Their lives and practice

chapter 4|10 pages

Midwives and infant death in Tudor England

chapter 5|11 pages

Challenge and change to midwifery practice

chapter 12|11 pages

District midwives and general practitioners

chapter 14|15 pages

Hospitalisation of birth

chapter |9 pages


English midwives, 14th–21st centuries