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From the Womb to the Body Politic

Raising the Nation in Enlightenment Russia

Anna Kuxhausen

Publication Year: 2012

In Russia during the second half of the eighteenth century, a public conversation emerged that altered perceptions of pregnancy, birth, and early childhood. Children began to be viewed as a national resource, and childbirth heralded new members of the body politic. The exclusively female world of mothers, midwives, and nannies came under the scrutiny of male physicians, state institutions, a host of zealous reformers, and even Empress Catherine the Great.
    Making innovative use of obstetrical manuals, belles lettres, children’s primers, and other primary documents from the era, Anna Kuxhausen draws together many discourses—medical, pedagogical, and political—to show the scope and audacity of new notions about childrearing. Reformers aimed to teach women to care for the bodies of pregnant mothers, infants, and children according to medical standards of the Enlightenment. Kuxhausen reveals both their optimism and their sometimes fatal blind spots in matters of implementation. In examining the implication of women in public, even political, roles as agents of state-building and the civilizing process, From the Womb to the Body Politic offers a nuanced, expanded view of the Enlightenment in Russia and the ways in which Russians imagined their nation while constructing notions of childhood.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xii

It is a satisfying and humbling pleasure to thank the people who have helped to make this book a reality. I am grateful to William G. Rosenberg, who believed in and helped to shape this project from its very beginning and through every stage. For their help during the research process, I am indebted to the directors and staff at the State Historical Archive of the City...

Note on Transliteration and Translation

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pp. xiii-17

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pp. 3-10

From the Womb to the Body Politic aims to recover eighteenth-century Russian notions of the child, from the beginning of life to the threshold of adulthood, and to reveal the prescriptions and plans of different stakeholders in the new endeavor of saving infants and raising healthy children. Based on the arguments of eighteenth-century Russian Enlighteners...

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1. The Meanings of Vospitanie

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pp. 11-26

One of the luminaries of the Russian Enlightenment, Nikolai Novikov, chose the metaphor of an intricate contraption to represent the complexity involved in raising a child. He wrote in his prescriptive work on child rearing: “Upbringing is like a complicated machine, consisting of many different springs and gears, each of which must bring...

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2. The State and Midwifery

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pp. 27-54

Most of the Russian Enlighteners who were concerned with pregnancy, childbirth, and child care were not private doctors seeking a living among the well-to-do in Moscow or Saint Petersburg; they were servitors in the Russian state medical bureaucracy. This made them different in identity and perspective from the English man-midwife and the French accoucheur...

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3. Mother’s Milk

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pp. 55-74

This chapter focuses on one contentious aspect of the new campaign to reform maternal practices for the greater good: the issue of maternal breast-feeding. This issue is particularly rich for the historian; its discourse reveals the connections among modernity, empire, and the construction of motherhood in the age of Enlightenment. By deploying the languages...

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4. The Child’s Body and the Body Politic

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pp. 75-92

The architects of theories of vospitanie, as we have seen in the previous two chapters, were keenly interested in saving the lives of infants and children. At the heart of their prescriptions and plans were two rather modern premises. First, these reformers posited infants and children as a special category of the population—a vulnerable group requiring...

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5. Moral Instruction for the Empire’s Youth

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pp. 93-117

The architects of the new vospitanie recognized the moral component of child rearing as proceeding from the foundation of good physical health established in the earliest years of the child’s life. After having been nursed through infancy by mother’s milk, the young child’s body would be conditioned toward good moral health. At about the age a child learns to read...

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6. The New Girlhood

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pp. 118-143

Many Russian writers and political leaders believed that the long-term success of reforms in upbringing depended upon the creation of a new woman. Accordingly, raising girls became critical to the goals of fostering a new national character and improving the health of the population. Toward these ends, Catherine established one of the jewels of her reign...

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pp. 144-155

Reform-minded Russians began to construct ideas of infants and children as precious resources for the state beginning in the mid-eighteenth century. Their ambitions to rescue babies and to raise them into new Russians—whether strong peasant soldiers or Enlightened noble women—created an opportunity to conjure the ideal body...


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pp. 157-189


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pp. 191-210


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pp. 211-228

E-ISBN-13: 9780299289935
E-ISBN-10: 0299289931
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299289942
Print-ISBN-10: 029928994X

Page Count: 242
Illustrations: 10 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2012