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The Hand that Rocked the Cradle
The Art of Birth and Infancy
This book offers a fresh perspective on the history of birth and infancy by showing a rich array of images and objects ranging from paintings, prints, sculpture, metalwork, jewellery, textiles, ceramics, furniture and woodwork from both the fine and decorative arts, and medical and social history collections. Western European art has a strong tradition in representing birth and infancy, and many objects relating to this subject have survived, in collections such as the Wellcome in London and other museums and galleries across the world.
The long chronological scope (1300-1900) provides insight to the enduring nature of many traditions and heirlooms relating to childhood and infancy. Moreover, by tracing the subject back to the medieval period it challenges the notion that so many of these practices were of more recent origin.
The book is divided into an introduction followed by seven chapters with integrated fully captioned illustrations. The main subjects covered are: Beliefs and Customs; Childbirth; Lying-in, Rites of passage, ceremony and rituals; Milestones; The cult of breastfeeding; Accidents, abuse, fatalities and abandonment.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Progressing from conception to birth, lying-in, nurture and the milestones of child development, religious ritual and folklore and the pitfalls of neglect, abandonment and abuse, it reads, and looks, like the distillation of a lifetime's work. . . . [A] historical narrative studded with sobering and peculiar facts and anecdotes and a wealth of revealing illustrations. . . . This book itself is a cabinet of curiosities, startling, comic and tragic."--The Spectator "This short and eminently digestible book takes the reader on a rip-roaring ride. . . . Images of fascinating - if at times, terrifying - objects relating to these rites are accompanied by illustrations of these pivotal life events, without which, quite simply, we wouldn't be here today."--Art Quarterly "Parts of this book are not for the faint-hearted. . . . Sue Lawrence thematically describes and amply illustrates the salient aspects - the womb, conception and pregnancy; birth and lying-in; rites de passage and milestones of growth; breastfeeding . . . and the dark side of accidents, abuse, deaths and abandonments. A former curator of the Florence Nightingale Museum and head of the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, Sue Laurence writes with authority. Those looking for drama without the gore should stick to the reality TV series Sam and Billie Faiers's Mummy Diaries or Ferne McCann's First Time Mum (also authoritative in their own right)."--The Art Newspaper