We are working on a general reassessment of the history of reproduction. For an interim survey, visit the online version of an exhibition we put on at Cambridge University Library in 2011:
More specific research is organized within four strands. Use the links below to explore examples of our work. For forthcoming conferences and workshops, see Events.
1. Patients and practitioners
Patients and practitioners have long sought to promote fertility—and to control or restrict it. Projects in this strand explore how people seeking and offering help have framed the generative body.
- Rebecca Flemming, ‘The invention of infertility in the classical Greek world: medicine, divinity and gender’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 87:4 (2013), 565-590.
- Generation and Reproduction in Medieval Europe symposium (8 December 2012)
- Hilary Powell, ‘The “miracle of childbirth”: the portrayal of parturient women in medieval miracle narratives’, Social History of Medicine 25:4 (2012), 795-811.
- Forman/Napier Casebooks project
- Lauren Kassell, ‘Medical understandings of the body, c.1500-1750’, in Kate Fisher and Sarah Toulalan (eds), The Routledge History of Sex and the Body in the West, 1500 to the Present (London: Routledge, 2013), pp. 57-74.
- Siân Pooley, ‘Parenthood, child-rearing and fertility in England, 1850-1914’, History of the Family, 18:1 (2013), 83-106.
2. Reproducing generations: conception and survival
Biological, anthropological and historical research has shown the variability of human fertility and the social diversity of reproduction. This strand evaluates historically the effects on reproductive rates of the health of conception and the fetus. We are particularly interested in exposure to infection in cities with high disease loads and in social settings in which sex may have carried venereal diseases that impacted on reproduction.
- Understanding the early phase of the epidemiological transition: variations in infectious disease mortality in England 1600-1837
- Demography of early modern London circa 1550-1750
- R.J. Davenport, ‘Year of birth effects in the historical decline of tuberculosis: a reconsideration’, PLoS ONE 8(12): e81797 (2013).
- Simon Szreter, The right of registration: development, identity registration and social security, History and Policy (2007)
- Keith Breckenridge and Simon Szreter (eds), Registration and Recognition: Documenting the Person in World History, Oxford University Press (2012).
- Simon Szreter, ‘The prevalence of syphilis in England and Wales on the eve of the Great War: re-visiting the estimates of the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases, 1913-1916’, Social History of Medicine 27:3 (2014), 508-529.
3. Representation and communication
Generation and reproduction have been debated since antiquity, with much continuity in questions and huge changes in form. This strand attempts to ground in basic practices of representation and communication a history that has tended to be written in terms of disembodied ideas.
- Jim Secord, Global Darwin lecture (Darwin College Lecture Series 2009)
- James A. Secord, Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age (OUP and University of Chicago Press, 2014).
- Books and Babies: Communicating Reproduction exhibition (July-December 2011)
- Communicating Reproduction conference (5-6 December 2011)
- Making Visible Embryos online exhibition
- Nick Hopwood, ‘A marble embryo: meanings of a portrait from 1900‘, History Workshop Journal 73 (Spring 2012), 5-36. [open access] Short version: ‘Anatomist and embryo: a portrait sculpture’, The Lancet 381 (2013), 286-287.
- Nick Hopwood, Haeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution and Fraud (University of Chicago Press, 2015).
4. Twentieth-century transformations: technologies, experiences, regulation
How, and to what extent, did science transform reproduction in the twentieth century? Projects in this strand look at how new technologies were developed and how they changed the experience of reproduction. We are also studying new forms of regulation, such as for embryo research.
- Transforming Pregnancy Since 1900 conference (29-30 March 2012)
- Salim Al-Gailani, ‘Making birth defects “preventable”: pre-conceptional vitamin supplements and the politics of risk reduction’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (2014).
- Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, ‘The demand for pregnancy testing: the Aschheim–Zondek reaction, diagnostic versatility, and laboratory services in 1930s Britain’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (2014).
- Reproduction and the Sciences in Cambridge workshop (8 April 2011)
- Debating Reproduction: Hospital Birth (1 November 2012)
- Making Human Heredity: Populations and Public Health in the Postwar Era workshop (28-30 June 2012)
- M.H. Johnson, The early history of evidence-based reproductive medicine,
Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 26 (2013), 201-209.
- John Forrester, Principal Investigator, discusses his work on Robert Stoller and the history of gender identity.
Research on the history of IVF
- Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2010 for Robert Edwards, IVF pioneer. Martin Johnson, Professor Edwards’ former student, gave a lecture on ‘Bob Edwards and IVF: The early days’ at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Watch the video here.
- M.H. Johnson, Robert Edwards: the path to IVF, Reproductive Biomedicine Online 23 (2011), 245-262.
- M.H. Johnson, S.B. Franklin, M. Cottingham and N. Hopwood, ‘Why the Medical Research Council refused Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe support for research on human conception in 1971′, Human Reproduction 25 (2010), 2157-2174.
- R.L. Gardner and M.H. Johnson, Bob Edwards and the first decade of Reproductive BioMedicine Online. Reproductive Biomedicine Online 22 (2011), 103-121.
- A.A. Theodosiou and M.H. Johnson, The politics of human embryo research and the motivation to achieve PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis). Reproductive Biomedicine Online 22 (2011), 457-471.