Introduction: Defining the ‘Problem’: Perspectives on Infertility

  • Tracey LoughranEmail author
  • Gayle Davis


This section introduction considers diverse definitions of infertility in different historical and disciplinary contexts. The chapters invite readers to consider the extent to which the ‘biological’ category of infertility has always been mediated by social and cultural concerns; how changing definitions have shaped ‘patient’ experience; how definitions shape the historical object of study; and some of the methodological problems which might be associated with researching the history of infertility. These chapters reflect on issues of perennial importance to the history of infertility, controversies which have not been resolved, and methodological problems which remain constant. They show that throughout past ages, individuals brought their own understandings – shaped by manifold social, cultural, and economic resources – to the experience of living with and attempting to overcome infertility. The section therefore builds on existing research on the history of infertility, but also interrogates the assumptions of this research, and opens out new possibilities for future histories.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of EssexColchesterUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.School of History, Classics and ArchaeologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations