Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 18780
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Harley , David.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Historians as Demonologists: The Myth of the Midwife-Witch [The author argues against the belief that midwives were frequently persecuted as witches throughout the medieval and early-modern periods. Article includes a summary. Title note supplied by Feminae.].
  • Source: Social History of Medicine 3, 1 (April 1990): Pages 1 - 26.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Kramer, Heinrich, Inquisitor and Jacob Sprenger, Preacher- Malleus Maleficarum Medicine Midwives Social History Witches
  • Geographic Area: General
  • Century: 15- 16- 17
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  • Abstract: The belief that midwives were commonly persecuted as witches is widespread in the history of witchcraft and the history of medicine. Although the midwife-witch can be found in the writings of some demonologists, influenced by the Malleus Maleficarum, in few of the vast numbers of trials were midwives accused. The practice of midwifery required them to be respectable and trustworthy. Those who dabbled in medicine were occasionally accused but midwives were generally immune from witchcraft prosecution unless they fell foul of a zealous magistrate or there was some special local belief. Historians have been led astray by a tradition that derives from the discredited work of Margaret Murray. A few spectacular cases have been mistaken for a general pattern and midwife-witches have been seen where none exist. The history of witchcraft has been distorted but the history of midwifery has been completely unbalanced by this modern stereotype, which has served either to justify the rise of the men-midwives or to create a multitude of imaginary martyrs for the modern women's health movement. The myth of the midwife-witch is an obstacle to serious study of the history of midwives, women's health and the relationship between popular medicine and religion. [Reproduced from the publisher's website: http://shm.oxfordjournals.org/]
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  • Year of Publication: 1990.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
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