print, medical illustration, child in womb


This seminar explores the history of false conceptions in early modern English and European medicine and society. False conceptions, also called moles or “mola”, were lumps of flesh gestated in women’s wombs which caused signs of pregnancy, like the swelling of the belly or the breasts. The false conception’s similarity to true conception made it very difficult for physicians, midwives and women themselves to tell whether they carried a foetus or a lump of flesh in the womb. Distinguishing between these conceptions was made further difficult by the fact that some moles were said to move in the womb, mimicking foetal movement. Indeed throughout the seventeenth century, and into the eighteenth, English and European medical authors suggested that there were in fact two forms of human conception, the true and the false. This seminar will present an historical overview of medical and social knowledge about the mola, suggesting that this understudied area of the history of reproduction reveals important insights into the formation of ideas about generation, gynaecology and embryology.

Presenter: PhD candidate Paige Donaghy

This is an HDR milestone presentation. All are welcome to attend.