Report of the De Partu and United Kingdom Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery (UKCHNM) first history of childbirth colloquium held on 23rd June 2010

The De Partu History of childbirth research group aims to provide a supportive network for active researchers working on research projects concerned with the history of childbirth and human reproduction or the history of midwifery.

The most recent event, a history colloquium, was held in June 2010. A report follows by Julia Allison, freelance historian and PhD student, University of Manchester and Janette Allotey:

On a gloriously sunny day, a diverse group of academics, researchers and practising midwives gathered in the Kanaris Lecture Theatre at Manchester Museum for the inaugural De Partu annual history of childbirth research colloquium.  

A lively morning programme included presentations on a variety of topics including menstruation and how it was accounted for in early modern England (Sara Read), childbirth and midwives in rural Elizabethan East Anglia (Julia Allison), the use of the vectis in midwifery practice (Louise Jenkins), and eighteenth-century midwifery education in the Free Hanseatic City and Lübeck, presented by our German guest Christine Loytved, from the University of Osnabrück. 

Following a delicious lunch and an opportunity to network, Samuel Alberti from the Centre for Museology, Manchester Museum, presented a short account of the history of the museum, its design and its collections. Resuming the midwifery theme, Helen Bryers gave a paper on the development of maternity services in the Gàidhealthachd (Highlands and Islands of Scotland) 1912 – 1967. Finally, a thought-provoking paper was given by Helen King in which a recent sensationalist claim that the eighteenth-century men midwives William Harvey and William Smellie were murderers was skilfully deconstructed. This led to a lively debate, raising issues about the nature of ‘expert authority’, the conduct of historical research in the age of the internet and peer review processes. 

This new academic forum offered attendees from a wide variety of different disciplines an ideal opportunity to network and to share their wide and rich range of expertise in the field. These events, which will take place on an annual basis, aim to enrich future work by fostering informal support and peer review, interdisciplinary learning and collaboration.