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Abortion and Contraception in Modern Greece, 1830-1967

Medicine, Sexuality and Popular Culture

Palgrave Macmillan

Authors:

  • Winner of the 2022 European Society for Historical Demography Tamara Harevan Award

  • Explores the reasons why abortion came to play a central role in Greece’s fertility decline

  • Brings together popular culture and medical testimony to offer new insights into cultural and medical perspectives on birth control and abortion

  • Shows that medical and popular methods that were used in the pre-decline period to treat, among other conditions, sterility were subsequently repurposed into birth control methods

Part of the book series: Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Modern History (MBSMH)

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Table of contents (11 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xix
  2. Introduction

    • Violetta Hionidou
    Pages 1-11
  3. Fertility Trends, 1870–1967

    • Violetta Hionidou
    Pages 13-49
  4. Involuntary Childlessness

    • Violetta Hionidou
    Pages 51-82
  5. Emmenagogues and Abortifacients

    • Violetta Hionidou
    Pages 83-127
  6. The Physician’s Method: Curettage

    • Violetta Hionidou
    Pages 129-153
  7. The Ethics of Abortion: Poverty and Stigma

    • Violetta Hionidou
    Pages 175-198
  8. Contraception and Its Methods, I: Natural Methods

    • Violetta Hionidou
    Pages 199-246
  9. Conclusions

    • Violetta Hionidou
    Pages 319-330
  10. Back Matter

    Pages 331-361

About this book

The book examines the history of abortion and contraception in Modern Greece from the time of its creation in the 1830s to 1967, soon after the Pill became available. It situates the history of abortion and contraception within the historiography of the fertility decline and the question of whether the decline was due to adjustment to changing social conditions or innovation of contraceptive methods. The study reveals that all methods had been in use for other purposes before they were employed as contraceptives. For example, Greek women were employing emmenagogues well before fertility was controlled; they did so in order to ‘put themselves right’ and to enhance their fertility. When they needed to control their fertility, they employed abortifacients, some of which were also emmenagogues, while others had been used as expellants in earlier times. Curettage was also employed since the late nineteenth century as a cure for sterility; once couples desired to control their fertility curettage was employed to procure abortion. Thus couples did not need to innovate but rather had to repurpose old methods and materials to new birth control methods. Furthermore, the role of physicians was found to have been central in advising and encouraging the use of birth control for ‘health’ reasons, thus facilitating and speeding fertility decline in Greece. All this occurred against the backdrop of a state and a church that were at times neutral and at other times disapproving of fertility control.



    

Keywords

  • Fertility decline
  • Historical demography
  • Reproduction
  • Contraception
  • Sterility
  • Oral history
  • Popular culture
  • Medical testimony
  • Folklore
  • Population studies
  • gender and sexuality

Reviews

“Abortion and Contraception in Modern Greece is a work of enormous breadth and depth that will reward anyone interested in the biopolitical technologies, knowledges, and practices that helped shape the specific history of Greece’s population since the establishment of the modern Greek state.” (Eugenia Georges, Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Vol. 39 (2), October, 2021)

“This well-researched and erudite book is also a thoroughly engaging read. ... it will appeal to social, cultural and demographic historians as well as medical professionals. … By setting out such a well-rounded account of fertility decline and the evolution of birth control in Greece, Hionidou has thrown down a gauntlet to researchers elsewhere to broaden their perspectives and take a fresh look at fertility-related behaviour during their country’s first demographic transition.” (Eilidh Garrett, Continuity and Change, Vol. 36, 2021)

“Hionidou’s meticulous historical study shows in exemplary fashion how political and economic change can influence attitudes toward contraception and abortion. She persuasively demonstrates how and why one ostensibly pronatalist country could increasingly accept them – even on the part of medical and religious personnel, who often both privately supported and personally practiced their use in defiance of religious and professional dogma and of official policy. This book will find readers and imitators far beyond Greece’s borders.” (Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University, USA)
“For decades scholars have produced fine studies of fertility and contraception in modern societies that rely on at most one or two disciplinary perspectives. The limitations of this approach are self-evident: understanding fertility requires precise measurement and an understanding of the way ideas about fertility interacted with medical knowledge, religious notions, and state policy. Violetta Hionidou’s Abortion and Contraception in Modern Greece, in contrast, is multi-disciplinary study of fertility and its control in modern Greece. Drawing masterfully on the techniques of the demographer, the ethnographer, and the medical and social historian, she has produced both a much-needed, comprehensive account of fertility in modern Greece, she has provided a model for all others to emulate. This work is a triumph of truly inter-disciplinary scholarship.” (Timothy W. Guinnane, Philip Golden Bartlett Professor of Economic History, Yale University, USA)



Authors and Affiliations

  • History, Classics & Archaeology, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK

    Violetta Hionidou

About the author

Violetta Hionidou is Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at Newcastle University, UK. She has taught at Southampton University, UK, Crete University, Greece and has recently held the visiting Research Fellowship at the Seeger Centre for Hellenic Studies, Princeton University, USA. She is the author of Famine and Death in Occupied Greece, 1941–1944 and co-winner of the 2007 Edmund Keeley Book Prize. She has received funding from the European Union, the Wellcome Trust, the British Academy, ESRC and the Nuffield Foundation.


       

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Abortion and Contraception in Modern Greece, 1830-1967

  • Book Subtitle: Medicine, Sexuality and Popular Culture

  • Authors: Violetta Hionidou

  • Series Title: Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Modern History

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-41490-0

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: History, History (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-41489-4Published: 16 May 2020

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-41492-4Published: 16 May 2021

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-41490-0Published: 15 May 2020

  • Series ISSN: 2947-9142

  • Series E-ISSN: 2947-9150

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XIX, 361

  • Number of Illustrations: 2 b/w illustrations, 11 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: History of Modern Europe, History of Medicine, Gender and Sexuality, Social History, Demography

Buy it now

Buying options

eBook USD 79.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Other ways to access