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Peter Linebaugh

“Female prophecy must be situated in the crisis of reproduction in the middle of the seventeenth century. This was the peak period for the criminalization of women in England and throughout Europe, as prosecutions for infanticide, abortion, and witchcraft reached their highest rate. It was also the period in which men began to wrest control of reproduction from women (male midwives appeared in 1625 and forceps soon thereafter); previously, "childbirth and the lying-in period were a kind of ritual collectively staged and controlled by women, from which men were usually excluded." Since the ruling class had begun to recognize its interest in increased fecundity, "attention was focussed on the 'population' as fundamental category for economic and political analysis." The simultaneous births of modern obstetrics and modern demography were responses to this crisis. Both, like the witchcraft prosecutions, sought to rationalize social reproduction in a capitalist context - that is, as the breeding of labor power. A recurring motif in the ruling-class imagination was intercourse between the English witch and the "black man" - a devil or imp. The terror was not limited to an imaginary chamber of horrors; it was an actuality of counterevolution.”


Peter Linebaugh, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic
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The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic by Peter Linebaugh
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