Protecting the body and soul of infinite newborns: church and state in the regulation of midwifery in Tridentine Italy Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Kosmin, Jennifer F.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • Midwives were unique among early modern Italian medical practitioners in that their work and expertise were at once part of learned, popular, and religious traditions. In addition to being highly visible figures in the ritual life of Italian society, midwives' expertise facilitated their entrance into the legal and political worlds of early modern Italy. Still, the mysteriousness of midwives' knowledge and practice fostered perpetual concern among male elites over midwives' potentially illicit activities. It was this position on the margins of multiple traditions that found early modern midwives targeted by new ecclesiastical, municipal, and medical regulation. This essay examines the various forms of legislation directed at midwives during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries - including Canon and Synodal decrees, municipal ordinances, and statues of the various medical colleges and Protomedicati - and aims to provide a thorough regional comparison of midwifery regulation in Italy. I suggest that midwives were positioned as intermediaries during a period of increased ecclesiastical and secular intervention in daily life, negotiating between the interests of their communities and new interventions from church and state.
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  • Bullard, Melissa Meriam
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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