Kristina Puljizević, U ženskim rukama. Primalje i porođaj u Dubrovniku (1815-1918)

puljizevic-u-zenskim-rukama.cdrKristina Puljizević, U ženskim rukama. Primalje i porođaj u Dubrovniku (1815-1918) (Childbirth in Dubrovnik (1815-1918)). Zagreb-Dubrovnik: Hrvatska akademija znanosti i umjetnosti Zavod za povijesne znanosti u Dubrovniku, 2016, 268 pp.

This book, based on the doctoral dissertation defended within the PhD programme “The History of Population”, represents the first history of childbirth in the Croatian historiography. Investigating this specific event – with private, but also social-political, and medical dimensions – the author has successfully connected many areas of social and political history. Puljizević has explored such diverse topics as the legislative reforms, the application of innovations in medicine and other sciences, demographic trends, and the social position of women. The author has also successfully traced a number of important historical changes and transformations. She has dedicated particular attention to the process of medicalization of childbirth in the Dubrovnik’s area, a process which took shape during the century of Austrian rule. She followed the process of integration of midwives into the system of public health, the standardization of a free female profession, which was subjected to the medical hierarchy through the direct state intervention. In the process of standardization and integration, the midwives lost their previous autonomy, but gained the possibility of systematic education in the specialized institutions. Using the relevant foreign literature, the author has clearly demonstrated that similar processes happened across the entire Europe. Although the study focuses on the nineteenth century, primarily on the reforms of Austrian authorities and their reception in the Dubrovnik’s area, the author also dealt with childbirth in the Dubrovnik Republic, dedicating a separate chapter to this topic. The medicalization of childbirth, enforced “from above” by the Austrian authorities in accord with the cameralist policy, affected the demographic trends, but did not affect the very experience of childbirth, especially in the rural areas. Nonetheless, the gradual changes in the practice of childbirth at the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century announced the forthcoming transition from domicile childbirth to that in a medical institution. In sum, this excellent study by Kristina Puljizević is an important contribution to the Croatian historiography, and it can serve as a valuable model for the research of similar processes, especially in the former territories of the Habsburg monarchy.

Rina Kralj-Brassard