From ritual to regulation? : the development of midwifery in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, c.1740-1840
This thesis explores the development of midwifery in Glasgow and the West of Scotland between c.1740 and 1840. It draws upon a wide range of published and archival sources, including personal diaries and correspondence, local newspapers and trade directories, lecture notes and casebooks, and the minutes of numerous institutions. The first three chapters are concerned with the practices, characteristic and regulation of midwives, who, prior to this period, were neither certified nor examined, and acquired their skills through experience. An integral part of their role in the birthing chamber was to ensure that certain rituals, believed to mitigate the risks and agony of labour and to protect mother and child against supernatural agencies, were observed, and chapter one is devoted to an exploration of these rituals. In 1740 the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (FPSG) imposed a system of compulsory examination and licensing for midwives throughout Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and Dunbartonshire, and chapters two and three analyse the impact of this scheme and the personal and professional characteristics of the women thus licensed. The remaining three chapters consider the development and significance of formal lectures in midwifery for both female and male practitioners, which were advertised in the Glasgow press from the 1750s. Midwifery lectures were introduced at Glasgow University in the late 1760s, and by 1817 every medical and surgical graduate of the University, and every male licentiate of the FPSG, was obligated to have studied midwifery. Despite these developments, midwifery in the West of Scotland was not completely transformed by 1840. The licensing scheme for midwives was difficult to enforce and easily eschewed by those who assisted at childbirth only occasionally, therefore only a minority of midwives were licensed. As formal instruction became more sophisticated and comprehensive, professed midwives gradually rejected the FPSG’s scheme in favour of accreditation through lecture courses, and the licensing regulations were abandoned altogether in the 1830s.