Midwives' oaths: everyday life and the law in seventeenth-century England

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


This article explores historical and legal approaches to past society, asking what each has to offer the other. Using early modern midwives’ oaths as a case study, it examines the extent to which the law shapes everyday life and society, and vice versa allowing us to situate early modern midwives at the intersection of a number of important and competing seventeenth-century institutions including state, church, society, and profession. We argue that a historico-legal approach to the practices of seventeenth-century midwives demands a reconsideration of the historiography of medical ethics and of the professions more broadly. It situates midwives as holders of formal office, and agents of the emergent early modern state and encourages reflection on the nature of ethical practice, and professional regulation within their social, cultural, and political context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalContinuity and Change
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2024


  • midwifery
  • oaths
  • State
  • law
  • History of Medicine
  • history, 17thC
  • Social History


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