This book draws upon the vast literature on the subject of contraception to provide a scholarly yet highly readable account of procreation through the ages, from Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Christian West, the Middle Ages and early Modern Europe to the late 20th century. The story is not, the author argues, one of unalleviated progress, a simple passage from ignorance to enlightment. He marshalls his evidence from demography, medicine, literature, religious, family and women's history, to show that the idea of limiting progeny has rarely been absent from human history. Indeed such practices as abstinence, withdrawal, abortion and extended nursing have endured from antiquity to the modern era. Whilst the basic contraceptive methods used over the centuries are strikingly similar, their purpose and significance vary greatly. How have men and women's motives differed in restricting families? Have concepts of mothering and fathering changed over time? Has the economic value of children altered? What influence has been wielded by the church and larger community? In considering such questions as these, the author reveals the complex ways in whcih reproductive decision-making is intertwined with social, economic, political, and gender relationships.
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