Can ‘obstetric violence’ be a generative lens through which to understand Australian women’s historical experiences of labour and birth? Setting
contemporary debates about obstetric violence in a longer chronological trajectory offers the opportunity to see continuity and change in how medical professionals over time enacted physical and psychological violence on the women in their care. It also has the potential to demonstrate women’s resistance to, but also acquiescence to and collaboration in this violence. A comparative analysis of post-World War II birth practices in Australia, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States points to profound continuity over time, raising questions about the intractability of this problem.

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Michaels is an associate professor of history at Monash University and author of Lamaze: an International History (Oxford UP, 2014); Curative Powers: Medicine and Empire in Stalin’s Soviet Central Russia (U Pittsburgh Press, 2003); and co-editor with Renata Kokanovic of Paths to Parenthood: Emotions on the Journey through Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Early Parenting Experiences (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018).