chapter  2
26 Pages

To remedy barrenness and to promote the faculty of generation’: promoting fertility, 1500–1800

WithAngus McLaren

In linking pleasure and procreation early modern English men and women were indicating that they saw themselves playing an active role in reproduction. In the twentieth century control of reproduction is equated with the driving down of the rate of fertility but ‘birth control’ can of course be manifested by a forcing up of the rates of fertility. This chapter examines the complementary issue of how conceptions could be assured and miscarriages avoided. It reviews the advice available to early modem men and women on the ways in which potential obstacles to childbearing could be overcome. The chapter addresses issues concerning herbs that could be used to provoke the lust and elicit the seed of the man and the potions should a barren woman turn to. It also examines whether the longings of pregnant women were dangerous and how the pains of labour can be eased.