Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance

Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance

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This text uncovers the obscure history of contraception and abortifacients from ancient Egypt to the 17th century with forays into Victorian England. The author's thesis is that the ancient world did indeed possess effective (and safe) contraceptives and abortifacients. He evaluates the scientific merit of these ancient remedies and discusses why this rich body of knowledge about fertility control - widely held in the ancient world - was gradually lost over the course of the Middle more

Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 152.4 x 228.6 x 17.78mm | 294.83g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 3 tables, 6 halftones, 1 line illustration
  • 0674168763
  • 9780674168763
  • 848,924

Review quote

[Riddle's] findings carry important implications for the history of theology, casuistry, pastoral care, social history, the history of sexuality, and the history of popular culture, as well as the history of botany, pharmacy, medicine, and biochemistry...These findings should earn Riddle the gratitude of the numerous historians for whom the reproductive strategies of past generations are an important issue. -- James A. Brundage American Historical Review Gives us a valuable glimpse of the long reach of history on fertility and provides food for thought on possible options that science should research for both safety and efficacy. -- Portia Meares Herb Quarterly Riddle's study is a true turning point in the history of contraception and abortion, which may have large implications for the history of the medical and psychic experience of women in antiquity, folk medicine, and premodern demography. -- W. V. Harris New York Review of Books Riddle shows us that ancient contraceptive medical practices were safe, effective and commonly used. Sociological studies on their use remain to be carried out. But it is possible that, between the Middle Ages and the rise of modern contraception, the well-off and city dwellers had little access to effective contraception, thanks to the growth of conventional medicine and the soaring social power of the physician. This is just one of the many intriguing lines of investigation to arise from this book, which shines a different light on what we are generally taught about the 'progress' of the modern world. -- Michel Raymond Natureshow more

Table of contents

Preface Population and Sex Evidence for Oral Contraceptives and Abortifacients Soranus on Antifertility Agents Terminology in Dioscorides' De materia medica Early Stage Abortifacients in Dioscorides and Soranus Ancient Society and Birth Control Agents Egyptian Papyrus Sources Greek and Roman Medicine from Hippocrates to Galen The Late Roman Empire and Early Middle Ages The Middle Ages: The Church, Macer, and Hildegard Salerno and Medicine through the Twelfth Century Islam, Arabic Medicine, and the Late Middle Ages Knowledge of Birth Control in the West The Renaissance Later Developments Abbreviations Notes Bibliography Indexshow more

About John M. Riddle

John M. Riddle is Chair of the History Department and Alumni Distinguished Professor, North Carolina State more