Old English byrððīnenu: the Anglo-Saxon midwife

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Abstract

Midwives were clearly viewed as professionalized figures in the Mediterraneanworld of antiquity and late antiquity and they were responsible for women’s healthcare,such as gynecological and obstetrical needs. They were referred to in Roman law, admonished in Christian edicts and memorialized in statues and inscriptions.Their status is attested to by medical texts specifically intended for midwives’ use dating from atleast the third century B.C. to the sixth century A.D. According to Green, professionalmidwives disappeared along with the slow disintegration of the urban environmentsthat supported medical specialization and reemerged as a specialized profession only in the thirteenth century, first in larger towns and then in smaller rural areas.We might surmise a similar scenario for Anglo-Saxon England, although textualReferences are very limited, related lexical items very scarce, and the figure of the Anglo-Saxon midwife altogether still little known and appreciated.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteStudies on Late Antique and Medieval Germanic Glossography and Lexicography in Honour of Patrizia Lendinara
Pagine623-634
Numero di pagine12
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2018

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