The risks of childbirth in historical perspective (2016-2018)

Partners and collaborators

Thackray Medical Museum

Postgraduate students

Caitlin Stobie


This research network is supported by an AHRC networking grant, and combines the disciplinary approaches of historians and midwives to investigate the concept of childbirth "risk" from a historical perspective.The concept of risk stands at the heart of childbirth-management in Britain today, and seems to provide a suitably objective measure to guide practice and policy; yet the hegemony of that concept is open to challenge on a number of grounds. It is relatively novel historically, and post-dates most of the great advances in the technical management of birth; its theoretical meaning is problematical, as has been widely discussed in the social sciences; and in practical terms its application has led to paradoxes, such as the concentration of normal births in obstetric units designed to deal with difficult cases. The project will bring a fresh perspective on this issue by approaching it historically. Conversely, it will enrich the discipline of history by bringing the theme of risk into focus in the specific context of childbirth. There will be 3 research conferences/workshops (1 in Brighton, 1 in London, and 1 in Leeds) to develop themes with a view to a further substantive grant and to publications. The network involves historians, clinicians, sociologists and a philosopher., as well as public engagement activities with project partner The Thackray Museum. 

Contact Dr Adrian Wilson, (PI, University of Leeds) or Dr Tania Mcintosh, (CO-I University of Brighton) for more information. 

Project website