Angela Muir, EHS Power Fellow

Deviant Maternity: Illegitimacy in Eighteenth Century Wales

Angela’s research examines the social, cultural and medical context of illegitimacy and childbirth in eighteenth-century Britain. She completed her PhD at the University of Exeter with funding from the Wellcome Trust and Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Her doctoral thesis, ‘Deviant Maternity: Illegitimacy in Eighteenth-Century Wales’, explores levels of illegitimacy across the Welsh counties of Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire, and investigates many of the underlying causes of, and diverse relationships and sexual encounters that resulted in, childbirth outside of wedlock. Her thesis also examines infant and maternal survival chances, anxieties surrounding the unregulated female reproductive body, and the provision of care for married and unmarried pauper women immediately before, during and after parturition. Overall, her thesis demonstrates that illegitimacy in eighteenth-century Wales was a deeply complex phenomenon governed by diverse regionally-specific social, cultural and economic influences.

Angela’s postdoctoral research will expand on her doctoral project, and will examine parish registers and poor law accounts from an additional two Welsh counties, as well as quarter session and Court of Great Sessions records, official reports, ballads and travel literature. The project will investigate the prevalence of illegitimacy across Wales, the identities and relationships of the men and women who begat and bore children outside of wedlock, and the experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing for unmarried mothers and their children. This research will be based at the IHR and Cardiff University.