London Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar postgraduate

  • Laura Neff (Invited speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


A seminar for PhD students to share original research in History, Literature and Art. This seminar was hosted at Senate House.

The Abdominal Abyss: The Surgical Exploration of Maternal Medicine in the Nineteenth Century The history of surgery and its entanglement with Empire has long been underexplored in the History of Medicine. Throughout my doctoral project I seek to demonstrate that the abdominal cavity during pregnancy and parturition was an uncharted frontier in obstetric medicine. My research examines the medical theories, debates and techniques in obstetric medicine that were transformed from 1850-1902. The sheer diversity of medical treatments and procedures led to a complicated and sometimes polarized field of maternal medicine and its practice. The terminology used to describe certain surgical procedures illuminates a rich language composed of imperial and colonial metaphors. These images assisted obstetric surgeons in understanding the multifaceted biological processes of the human body. This conceptual lexicon permitted obstetric surgeons to speculate on different conditions, practices and most importantly, surgeries without necessarily addressing the invasive horrors of ovariectomies, caesarean sections and fetal craniotomies. The expedition of obstetric surgeons into the abdominal cavity revitalized debates on maternal medicine and its practice. Thus, the social and cultural questions surrounding obstetric surgical procedures and practices reveal a truly compelling dialogue of medical ethics during an era of colonial exploration and imperial expansion.
Period20 Apr 2013
Event typeOther


  • History of Medicine
  • Nineteenth Century Studies
  • Postgraduate
  • London