Abortion in Early Modern Italy - I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History (Hardback)
  • Abortion in Early Modern Italy - I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History (Hardback)
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Abortion in Early Modern Italy - I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History (Hardback)

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£44.95
Hardback 368 Pages
Published: 01/01/2021
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A comprehensive history of abortion in Renaissance Italy.

In this authoritative history, John Christopoulos provides a provocative and far-reaching account of abortion in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy. His poignant portraits of women who terminated or were forced to terminate pregnancies offer a corrective to longstanding views: he finds that Italians maintained a fundamental ambivalence about abortion. Italians from all levels of society sought, had, and participated in abortions. Early modern Italy was not an absolute anti-abortion culture, an exemplary Catholic society centered on the “traditional family.” Rather, Christopoulos shows, Italians held many views on abortion, and their responses to its practice varied.

Bringing together medical, religious, and legal perspectives alongside a social and cultural history of sexuality, reproduction, and the family, Christopoulos offers a nuanced and convincing account of the meanings Italians ascribed to abortion and shows how prevailing ideas about the practice were spread, modified, and challenged. Christopoulos begins by introducing readers to prevailing ideas about abortion and women’s bodies, describing the widely available purgative medicines and surgeries that various healers and women themselves employed to terminate pregnancies. He then explores how these ideas and practices ran up against and shaped theology, medicine, and law. Catholic understanding of abortion was changing amid religious, legal, and scientific debates concerning the nature of human life, women’s bodies, and sexual politics. Christopoulos examines how ecclesiastical, secular, and medical authorities sought to regulate abortion, and how tribunals investigated and punished its procurers—or did not, even when they could have. Abortion in Early Modern Italy offers a compelling and sensitive study of abortion in a time of dramatic religious, scientific, and social change.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674248090
Number of pages: 368
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

Christopoulos has meticulously pieced together a secret history not only from prescriptive sources but from the public records of trials, giving us for the first time a sense of the way early modern women and men experienced abortion…[His] accomplished account emphasizes the ambiguities and ambivalences that surrounded pregnancy and its termination in early modern Italy. - Erin Maglaque, London Review of Books

A major contribution—subtle, erudite, and wide-ranging. Christopoulos's sophisticated handling of the complexities and ambiguities surrounding the termination of pregnancy in early modern Italy makes this book not merely for scholars interested in abortion but also for anyone who studies the workings of early modern society more generally. Abortion in Early Modern Italy demonstrates the abilities of a first-rate historian. - Mary Lindemann, University of Miami

While most studies of the early history of abortion adopt the perspective of medical, ecclesiastical, and secular authorities, this important book gives equal attention to the motivations and experiences of the women and men involved in procuring, facilitating, or testifying regarding abortions. Through exhaustive archival research, Christopoulos has managed to excavate the voices not only of the pregnant women themselves, but also of their accusers, their partners, rapists, and seducers, their families, their healers, and other members of the community. - Katharine Park, Harvard University

In this beautifully researched book, punctuated by vivid microhistories, John Christopoulos offers a complex and nuanced perspective on the meaning of abortion in early modern Italy. He puts a human face on the decisions made by men and especially women, by church and state, and by judges, lawyers, and medical experts, allowing us to see how this quintessential Catholic society grappled with the status of the unborn and reproductive rights. Christopoulos thoughtfully reminds us that the past is full of surprises, sometimes where we least expect them. - Paula Findlen, Stanford University

A brilliant, field-shaping book based on extraordinary archival research and great analytical insight. John Christopoulos not only remakes our understanding of struggles over reproduction in early modern Italy and Europe, but also provides an important intervention in the long and broad transnational history of abortion. In centering abortion, this beautifully written book also illuminates in new ways our understanding of a wide range of early modern themes from church and state to science and local communities. - Julie Hardwick, author of Sex in an Old Regime City: Young Workers and Intimacy in France, 1660–1789

Anyone tempted to make facile arguments about abortion politics, on either side of the aisle, needs to read John Christopoulos’s new book…Abortion in Early Modern Italy is a lucid, thorough, perceptive history, told with clarity and compassion. It should be on the reading list of everyone who cares about pregnant women and the politics and realities of abortion, past and present. - Lara Freidenfelds, Nursing Clio

A rich and innovative history of abortion in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy…Through vivid microhistories accompanying each chapter, he gives voice for the first time to women from across the social spectrum who sought and procured abortions, men who forced it on them, healers who participated in its practice, as well as relatives, neighbors, and ecclesiastical authorities who offered aid or turned a blind eye…A sensitive and provocative historical analysis of a deeply complex topic. - Elizabeth W. Mellyn, Isis

[A] poignant study of women’s history…A valuable contribution to the growing literature on generation, pregnancy and its termination in early modern Italy, and on women’s social circumstances in general. - Joanne M. Ferraro, Social History of Medicine

Christopoulos richly reconstructs the contexts in which early modern women and men made the difficult and dangerous choice to end a pregnancy…A comprehensive and highly readable addition to the existing literature on early modern reproduction, healthcare, law, and religion…This book will be of great value to a wide range of scholars. - Jennifer Kosmin, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

Building on a rich historiography of early modern microhistory, case studies of alleged abortions are interspersed throughout the book and provide opportunities to reflect on some of the complicated experiences of individuals…[A] valuable study. - Julia Rombough, Early Modern Women

Outstanding…Drawing from extensive research in archival and printed sources, Christopoulos tells a riveting story of a practice that caused significant moral and legal alarm but remained difficult for authorities to control or limit…Abortion in Early Modern Italy is engagingly written, thoughtfully crafted, and compelling. It brings a crucial historical perspective to our current contentious debates about abortion. - Alisha Rankin, Renaissance Quarterly

This fascinating study analyses a provocative topic (both then and now) from a multitude of different angles to understand the meanings and interpretations of abortion in the historical past. [Christopoulos'] extensive archival research results in a very rich study of reproductive rights in sixteenth and seventeenth century Italy. - Megan Moran, Medieval History Journal

A fascinating topic…[Christopoulos] argues that there was more than one meaning to abortion, as well as more than one way to attempt to achieve one. - Thomas Kuehn, Journal of Modern History

It is a jarring experience to read this historical study of abortion in early modern Italy after the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States. The parallels between then and now crystallize a long history of patriarchy…This book brings a fresh, sensitive eye to a long-standing concern. - Cynthia Klestinec, Renaissance and Reformation

Using a multiplicity of sources ranging from religion to pharmacopoeia, from literature to jurisprudence…this excellent and informative study takes us into the Italian reality of the time, showing us how men and women tried to survive in a complex society that disadvantaged many women and allowed many men to forcefully and violently control, to their advantage, the female body. - Elena Brizio, H-Net Reviews

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