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Cultures of Abortion in Weimar Germany
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Cultures of Abortion in Weimar Germany (Hardback)

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"...a richly textured analysis of medical and lay abortion discourses and practices, artistic representations of the procedure, and of women's, particularly lower-class women's, own perceptions and experiences of abortion. Skilfully using an impressive variety of sources, Usborne provides a meticulous, insightful, and lively study that questions some of the continuing assumptions about the Weimar Republic.and provides an exciting example of how to approach the history of the body." * Medical History "Based on a careful reading of court files, this investigation reveals a rich and often ambiguous repertoire of perceptions and descriptions...Cultures of Abortion is not only the seminal study on one of the most contested and high-profile issues in Weimar politics, it is also a superb demonstration of how 'gender' can be used to complicate well established historical narratives." * German History "With inspiration from Alltagsgeschichte(history of the everyday) and body history, Usborne presents a fascinating collection of stories about how abortion was practiced in both rural and urban, medicalized and folk-healing contexts...[It] performs several valuable services.

It brings us far closer to the actual experiences of Weimar women who underwent abortions than we have ever been before, it usefully questions our tendency to respect complex medical procedures over simpler but often just as effective techniques, and it provides considerable evidence that the practice and social acceptance of abortion were far more widespread in this period than previously appreciated." * Bulletin of the History of Medicine Abortion in the Weimar Republic is a compelling subject since it provoked public debates and campaigns of an intensity rarely matched elsewhere. It proved so explosive because populationist, ecclesiastical and political concerns were heightened by cultural anxieties of a modernity in crisis. Based on an exceptionally rich source material (e.g., criminal court cases, doctors' case books, personal diaries, feature films, plays and literary works), this study explores different attitudes and experiences of those women who sought to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and those who helped or hindered them. It analyzes the dichotomy between medical theory and practice, and questions common assumptions, i.e. that abortion was "a necessary evil," which needed strict regulation and medical control; or that all back-street abortions were dangerous and bad.

Above all, the book reveals women's own voices, frequently contradictory and ambiguous: having internalized medical ideas they often also adhered to older notions of reproduction which opposed scientific approaches.

Cornelie Usborne is Professor in European History at Roehampton University. She is the author of The Politics of the Body in Weimar Germany and co-edited Cultural Approaches to the History of Medicine as well as Gender & Crime in Modern Europe (1999).

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