Birthing the Nation
How could the professional triumph of man-midwifery and contemporary tales of pregnant men, rabbit-breeding mothers, and meddling midwives in eighteenth-century Britain help construct the emergence of modern corporate and individual identities? By uncovering long-lost tales and artifacts about sexuality, birth, and popular culture, Lisa Forman Cody argues that Enlightenment Britons understood themselves and their relationship to others through their experiences and beliefs about the reproductive body. Birthing the Nation traces two intertwined narratives that shaped eighteenth-century British life: the development of the modern British nation, and the emergence of the male expert as the pre-eminent authority over matters of sexual behavior, reproduction, and childbirth. By taking seriously contemporary caricatures, jokes, and rumors that used gender, birth, and family to make claims about religious, ethnic and national identity, Cody illuminates an entirely new view of the eighteenth-century public sphere as focused on the bodily and the bizarre.