The midwife and the church: Ecclesiastical regulation of midwives in brie, 1499-1504

Tiffany D. vann Sprecher, Ruth Mazo Karras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


At the turn of the sixteenth century in Paris, midwifery was an emergent profession regulated by the church. This article analyzes fourteen entries in the Registre de causes from the archdeaconry of Brie, 1499-1504, within the context of midwives' relationship with the church. It suggests that midwives were important appendages of the ecclesiastical bureaucracy. Midwife regulation was one aspect of the French church's attempts to maintain its autonomy against secular powers. Regulation by the ecclesiastical bureaucracy provided midwives with professional advantages and disadvantages. The ecclesiastical bureaucracy played a vital role in creating and sustaining midwifery as a profession, but also circumscribed midwives' practices. Overall, however, bureaucratic control was unsystematically applied, and midwives were often left to negotiate their own professional and social positions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-192
Number of pages22
JournalBulletin of the History of Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011


  • Brie
  • Childbirth
  • Church
  • Early modern
  • Family
  • France
  • Gender
  • Medieval
  • Midwives
  • Regulation


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