Review of Confinement by Jessica Cox

All opinions in this post are my own - thanks to The History Press for providing a copy for me to read for the purposes of this review. 

There's a really positive trend at the moment towards the study of women's history, and this is vital to our understanding of history as a whole. Women were not always at the forefront of political, social and military events (although sometimes they were!) but they performed other, equally important roles that undoubtably changed how history turned out. 

Taking this one step further, Jessica Cox, in her book Confinement: The Hidden History of Maternal Bodies in Nineteenth-Century Britain takes a look at women navigating their role as mothers. She argues that the history of pregnant women has been often skipped over, and hidden from public view, particularly the emotional aspect of the experience. Digging into sources, she has unearthed women's real and often heart-wrenching experiences as they strove to fulfil not only their own urge for motherhood, but also often to provide a longed for heir to the family titles or estates. 

Jessica approaches this subject with sensitivity, sharing her own experiences with childbirth and motherhood, providing a contrast to the birthing experiences of our ancestors who lived during the late Georgian and Victorian eras. The examples she mentions really do bring these women to life. For the first time, we see their struggles to conceive - as well as their efforts not to. We see large families, small families and read accounts of marital rape, miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirths. Due to her painstaking research, we are sometimes able to read these women's accounts and feelings in their own words, written in letters and memoirs, which is especially valuable. After reading the book I gained a greater understanding of the lack of proper care, sensitivity, medical and psychological support that was available to women at this time. 

This is a wholly important and necessary work. For fans of earlier time periods, it's also a useful read because no doubt our Tudor and Medieval ancestors would have experienced many of the same issues. The book really opened my eyes, and I would whole-heartedly recommend it. One of the 'must-reads' of the year if you're interested in women's history. 

Ask for Confinement by Jessica Cox in your local bookshop, or you can find it on (affiliate link): Amazon here. 

Liked this? You might also like The Woodville Brides, The Women of Bedlam and my page about the Forgotten Women of History

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